How the West Was Won (1962)

Approved  |   |  Western  |  20 February 1963 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 13,568 users  
Reviews: 140 user | 34 critic

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:
Brigid Bazlen ...


Sprawling epic which follows the Prescotts, an emigrant family through four generations, from the Erie Canal in the 1830's to their settled home in the West a half a century later. On the way they encounter river pirates, and escape with the help of fur trapper Linus Rawlings, who subsequently marries one of their daughters, Eve. The parents are drowned on a foundering raft, and the other daughter Lilith becomes a riverboat singer and catches the eye of a genteel adventurer Cleve Van Valen. They cross the plains together in a wagon train and make and lose a fortune in California; meanwhile Linus has turned farmer and, comes the Civil War, joins the Union Army and is killed at the Battle of Shiloh. One of his sons Zeb also joins the army and stays after the war as a cavalry officer and is sent to Colorado to help guard the pioneering railroad against the Indians, whose land they are crossing. By this time Lilith is the elderly lady of the family, having survived long enough to see the ... Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The epic journey of four generations of Americans who carved a country with their bare hands See more »




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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?


As part of their collaboration with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Cinerama agreed to modify their system by reducing the frame rate to 24 frames per second (the industry standard) so that this film would have an exhibition life after its Cinerama engagements. See more »


During a gun battle on the railroad train, a man is ejected from the train and knocks over a Saguaro cactus. Saguaros have a very strong framework and would not be knocked over so easily. 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 »


Referenced in Relative Strangers (2006) See more »


Poor Wayfarin' Stranger
Sung by Dave Guard
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A whole constellation of magnificent spectacle!

Ford's most distinctive work has dealt with the white American's conquest of the wilderness... He has made films about most of the significant episodes in American history—early colonization of the West, the Civil War, the extermination of the Indians—and in so doing he has recounted the American saga in human terms and made it come alive...

Ford directed one of the episodes of "How the West Was Won," the Civil War... His brief but redeeming contribution effectively recounted the bloody Battle of Shiloh and its aftermath...

Hathaway's strong points were atmosphere, character and authentic locations... He directed, in the film, the episodes of 'The Rivers,' 'The Plains,' and 'The Outlaws.'

George Marshal—the most prolific and most versatile of all major Hollywood filmmakers—directed the episode of 'The Railroad.'

As seen through the eyes of four generations of a pioneer family of New England farmers as they made their way west in the l840s, the scope of "How the West Was Won" is enormous, with essays on the physiology of the West (pioneers, settlers, Indians, outlaws, and adventurers).

The film describes the hard life and times of the Prescott's family across the continent and their fortune to the western shore after years of hardship, loss, love, war, danger and romance...

Stewart appears in the first half hour as a trapper named Linus Rawlings, who marries the daughter (Carroll Baker) of a family migrating West…

The story touched all the bases: runaway wagon trains; Indians stampeding Buffalos; confused and erratic river rapids; the grandeur of Monument Valley, Utah; the rocky mountains; the Black Hills of South Dakota; the clamor of gold in St.Louis; the Cheyenne attack; the Pony Express; the overland telegraph; the coming of the steel roadway of the iron horse; the bloody battle between cattlemen and homesteaders; and some thrilling hand-to-hand fighting…

The result is a stupendous epic Western with 8 Academy Award Nominations including Best Picture and three Academy Awards including Best Original Story and Screenplay; Best Soundand Best Film Editing...

Narrated by Spencer Tracy, "How the West Was Won" enlists the services of such top stars as: Carroll Baker, the strong-minded woman; Gregory Peck, the luckiest gambler; Debbie Reynolds, the perplexing talented singer and dancer; Henry Fonda, the buffalo hunter with gray flowing hair and mustaches; George Peppard, the man with a star; Robert Preston, the decent character with moral flaws; Thelma Ritter, the character woman; Karl Malden, the patriarch; Agnes Moorehead, the unfortunate wife and mother; John Wayne, the major architect of modern warfare; Richard Widmark, the 'king' of the railroad; Russ Tamblyn the Confederate deserter; Andy Levine, the Corporal Ohio volunteer; Lee J. Cobb, the lawman; Carolyn Jones, the worried wife; Eli Wallach, the dangerous outlaw; Rodolfo Acosta, the train robber; Raymond Massey, the great Abraham Lincoln; Walter Brennan and Lee Van Cleef, the thieves to fear…

Alfred Newman and Ken Darby's majestic music takes the pioneers through every conceivable encounter in the West, achieving with conviction a whole constellation of magnificent spectacle...

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