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How the West Was Won (1962)

Approved | | Western | 20 February 1963 (USA)
A family saga covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century--including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads.


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Won 3 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:


Setting off on a journey to the west in the 1830s, the Prescott family run into a man named Linus, who helps them fight off a pack of thieves. Linus then marries daughter Eve Prescott (Carroll Baker), and 30 years later goes off to fight in the Civil War with their son, with bloody results. Eve's sister, Lily, heads further west and has adventures with a professional gambler, stretching all the way to San Francisco and into the 1880s. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


24 Great Stars In The Mightiest Adventure Ever Filmed! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 February 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das war der wilde Westen  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)


$12,150,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (Westrex Recording System)


(Metrocolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

2.89 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Frustrated by the technical limitations and difficulties of shooting with the three-strip Cinerama process, director Henry Hathaway was famously quoted as saying: " That goddamned Cinerama! Do you know, a waist shot is as close as you could get with that thing?" See more »


At the very end of the movie, when the camera flies under the Golden Gate bridge, it and it's operator can be seen reflected in the windshield of the (presumable) helicopter used for filming. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: [as the camera pans over the Rocky Mountains] This land has a name today, and is marked on maps. But, the names and the marks and the maps all had to be won, won from nature and from primitive man.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Except for historical events and characters, the events and characters depicted in this photoplay are fictitious and any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. See more »


Spoofed in How the West Was Hung (2000) See more »


Wait For the Hoedown
(1962) (fragment)
Music Adapted by Robert Emmett Dolan (uncredited)
Lyrics adapted by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Debbie Reynolds (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Awesome - American history on a grand scale
16 September 2005 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

As a seven year old boy who adored history, I was brought by my mother to see this in Cinemascope on a huge screen. Anyone who has seen this can just imagine the impact.

There has always been a healthy dispute about what historical developments most influenced the outlook and behavior of Americans. Among the candidates are: i) the development of an entirely new world on distant shores - a world where the rules were there to be made as the Pilgrims/Puritans/Quakers and others determined, ii) the colonists' growing self-identity as Americans, the evolution of that separate identity, and these peoples' coordination and cooperation from 1607 to the Albany Union conference in 1759, the Stamp Act Congress in 1763 and the Second Continental Congress' decision to declare independence in 1776, iii) the workings of a multi-racial society due to the presence of aboriginal people and the importation of slaves, iv) the role of the frontier and settlement of a continually receding West, v) the enormity of immigration and their inter-action with the native-born from about the 1840s to the present, vi) the sheer size and diverse conditions of topography and climate, vii) the evolution of democracy over four centuries on a large scale, viii) the experience of modernization over the past century on a scale unknown to, and before, the rest of the world.

This movie in effect tells the fourth story - and tells it in a thrilling, colorful way -- from the 1840s when the frontier was still the Ohio Valley to about 1885 - not so long a time. (Contrast this with the 169 year colonial period).

The movie is stunning - beautifully cast - music you'll always remember

  • and many powerful and moving scenes. So many scenes live forever in

my mind

  • the return of the George Peppard character from the Civil War to his

family's farmstead in Ohio,

-- the astonishing speech by the Richard Widmark character after the buffalo stampede has killed so many,

-- the wonderfully written emotional scenes whenever Debbie Reynolds was dealing with either Robert Preston's clumsy attempt at courtship ("why with hips like yours, having children would be as easy as rolling off a log") or her own love for the roguish Gregory Peck,

-- the George Peppard family (with the wonderful Carolyn Jones and Debbie Reynolds) singing Greensleaves as the movie nears its end,

-- and the astonishing scene of the West transformed into cloverleaf highways and overpasses after we've been watching a deserted West for several hours.

The pride in those who won the West is so evident throughout the movie
  • yet it's shown along with losses (the deep sadness of Henry Fonda's

mountaineer at the continuing encroachment of civilization, the breach of the boundary set in an Indian treaty due to the railroad's need to set a straight course - and the resulting catastrophe).

Not too many years would pass before movie makers would be telling audiences that the settlement of the West was a triumph of vicious villains, charlatans, cynics and fast-buck artists in movies like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Soldier Blue, Little Big Man, The Wild Bunch.

But I'm deeply grateful that I was old enough to see how the West was won in a movie like this.

72 of 103 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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