How the West Was Won (1962) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • 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 farther west and has adventures with a professional gambler, stretching all the way to San Francisco and into the 1880s.

  • 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 dream of settlement realized, but not, mercifully, the aerial shots of the Los Angeles freeway traffic with which the film ends.

  • The fifty years of American westward expansion between the 1830s and 1880s are viewed through the experiences of the Prescott and Rawlings families, as they migrate by the Erie Canal, continue over the prairies from St. Louis during the California gold rush, suffer through the Civil War, and finally help build the railroads on the plains and bring law and justice to the frontier. Along the way they meet mountain men, journey by wagon train, deal with Native Americans, and face outlaws in the southwest.

  • The story of how, over several generations, families opened up the Western U.S. to settlement. Zebulong Prescott, his wife Rebecca and daughters Eve and Lilith make the perilous journey, first down the newly built Erie Canal. Along the way they meet hunter and trapper Linus Rawlings, a genuine mountain man and catches Eve's eye in particular. They go their separate ways but Linus helps them out again when river bandits try to rob the Prescotts of their earthly possessions. A subsequent tragedy on the river however brings Eve and Linus together. Eve's sister Lilith decides to leave as soon as possible but ends up meeting her man, Cleve Van Valen and they make their way to the West Coast where they make their fortune. Eve and Linus' son Zeb fights in the Civil War and stays in the army afterward. He is assigned to protect the railroad, currently under construction. He sees the fear Indians have of the encroachment of white men onto their lands and the destruction of the buffalo. He makes a name for himself as a lawman and eventually agrees to take over his aunt Lilith's ranch, but not before having to take on one last fight.

  • 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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