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Robert Walker Jr.
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In the mid-19th century, Senator William J. Tadlock leads a group of settlers overland in a quest to start a new settlement in the Western US. Tadlock is a highly principled and demanding taskmaster who is as hard on himself as he is on those who have joined his wagon train. He clashes with one of the new settlers, Lije Evans, who doesn't quite appreciate Tadlock's ways. Along the way, the families must face death and heartbreak and a sampling of frontier justice when one of them accidentally kills a young Indian boy. Written by
In 1956 Hecht-Hill-Lancaster productions announced plans to film "The Way West." It was to be adapted by Clifford Odets and was to star Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, and hopefully Gary Cooper. That version was not made. See more »
The movie shows the wagon train in Oregon, moving East in the middle of the action. The mountains of Central Oregon, are shown clearly in the background, while all around the actors are surrounded by cinder rock formed by recent (within 500 year) volcanic activity. This isn't anything you'd see along the trail. See more »
[Mercy flirts silently with Brownie]
Best not be lookin', Brownie.
I ain't lookin'... as hard as I can.
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Even the meanest of us can be as large as this whole continent.
The Way West is directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and adapted to screenplay by Ben Maddow and Mitch Lindemann from the novel of the same name written by A.B. Guthrie Jr. It stars Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Richard Widmark, Sally Field, Lola Albright, Michael McGreevey, Jack Elam, Katherine Justice and Stubby Kaye. Music is by Bronislau Kaper and cinematography by William H. Clothier.
1843 and a former U.S. senator leads a wagon train of settlers to Oregon where he plans to build a new town. However, his rules of discipline and organisational skills leads to growing dissatisfaction with his leadership.
Frustrating! Such potential with the cast and story to hand, that The Way West meanders along and outstays its welcome is a crying shame. The blame is shared around, though, the screenplay doesn't offer up much for the cast to get their teeth into, which means Mitchum phones it in and Douglas tilts over the edge in trying to liven proceedings. McLaglen isn't confident enough to spruce the narrative with excitement, choosing instead a more maudlin approach as the many "pioneer character" threads start to feel superfluous to the story's worth. Especially bad is a teen romance between Field and McGreevey, as unnecessary as it is distracting.
Clothier's photography around the various Oregon locations is superb, fit to be in a John Ford movie in fact. The vibrant landscapes and the 100% outdoor production ensure there is at least some good to take away from the movie. We can also say that the odd interjection of drama, such as that involving the accidental killing of a Sioux child - and the subsequent "internal" discipline that follows - maintains interest. But once we reach the finale, and Widmark's Lije Evans yells it's on to Oregon, you may find yourself angry that Clothier and yourself deserved a far better movie. 5/10
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