The true story of the famous Mormon leader, Brigham Young and his battle to transport his people across the Rocky mountains to settle in Salt Lake City. The plot focuses on two of his people, Jonathan Kent and Zina Webb and the hardships they have to face along the way.Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
It must have been a difficult thing to make a movie in 1940 about the Mormons in the 19th century with polygamy being practiced by them at that time, but Daryl F. Zanuck gave it a try, even managing to get it past the production code and the censors of the time. He is definitely trying to parallel the trek of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land headed by Moses with the Mormons traveling from Nauvoo to Salt Lake headed by Brigham Young. There are some colorful characters thrown in such as John Caradine's Porter Rockwell, a rather wild scout, who pulls his guns on a prosecutor during a trial so that Brigham Young (Dean Jagger) can have a chance to speak in Joseph Smith's defense, and the judge lets him get away with that?? Then there is also a romance thrown in with Mormon Jonathan Kent (Tyrone Power) and non-Mormon Zina Webb (Linda Darnell) slowly falling for each other as they travel across the continent with the Mormons. When Jonathan proposes marriage, Zina has reservations - first off, she is not a Mormon, and more importantly, she doesn't want to be the first of many Mrs.Kents. Her reservations were probably justified.
There is even a bad guy in the (fictional) person of Angus Duncan (Brian Donlevy) who claims that Joseph Smith told him that he was to head the church in case of his death, and then causes trouble for Brigham Young every step of the way, including trying to get the Mormons to follow him to California rather than stop at Salt Lake. And yes, Angus is just like Edward G. Robinson's trouble making character in "The Ten Commandments", but remember, this film was made sixteen years before "Ten Commandments".
The whole time, as Brigham makes decisions that effect the lives of all of the Mormons, he confides in wife Mary Ann that he is not sure that he is being led by God to make all of these decisions, so that he carries a burden of feeling that he could be misleading the others when he tells them to do this or that, but all the while his heart is in the right place. The film brings up some valid points to anybody that believes in God - How do you really know when He is speaking to you? How do you know a true prophet from a false one? I'm no expert on LDS history, in fact I'm not LDS at all, but if you want a rousing Western adventure that is a little different you might give this one a try.
This film must have been somewhat convincing to non-Mormons as a realistic portrayal of what happened, because I distinctly remember this film being shown in elementary school back in history class when I was growing up in Texas! Do note that Dallas, Texas was probably lacking in large numbers of people who were neither a Baptist nor a Methodist back in 1967. Catch this one if you can. The performances are excellent even if the history may be a little off.
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