How the West Was Won (1962)

Approved  |   |  Western  |  20 February 1963 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 13,574 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


It's here! 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?


Because the 2 dividing lines that separate the 3 separate projections could not be totally edited into a seamless match, the directors skillfully used camouflage techniques to disguise the lines. Some of the objects used for this were trees, lamp posts, window edges, porch rails, building corners, doorways and wooden crates which were positioned at these points. See more »


When the wagon train, on its way to California, is attacked by Indians, it is in a mountainous area, yet the Indians are identified as Cheyenne. The Cheyenne tribe was a Great Plains tribe, and would not have been that far west. 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.
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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 Quantum Leap: How the Tess Was Won - August 5, 1956 (1989) See more »


Rock of Ages
(1763) (uncredited)
Music by Thomas Hastings
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady
Performed by all at the Prescotts' burial
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

More quantity than quality, but a truly all-star cast

Watching a letterboxed version of "How the West Was Won," I noticed the dividing lines on the screen, and it was clear that much of the picture was still missing even in this format. But neither hindered my enjoyment of this sprawling epic, even if James R. Webb's Oscar winning screenplay left something to be desired. Alfred Newman's music score is terrific, and so is that all-star cast. Unlike those disaster flicks of the 70s like "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno" that claimed to be stuffed with stars but actually boasted "names" (usually familiar performers, primarily from TV, who rarely headlined a first class feature), "How the West Was Won" has the genuine article. John Wayne, James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Carroll Baker, and Debbie Reynolds may mean little at the ticket windows of the 90s (and many of them are dead, anyway), but all were above the title stars who carried their own films at the box-office in the early 60s.

Three directors helmed this project but I'd be hard pressed to distinguish whether John Ford, George Marshall or Henry Hathaway were behind the camera during any particular episode if the opening credits didn't identify each segment and its director. I suppose "How the West Was Won" is more quantity than quality, but it's entertaining overall.

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