Rosa Moline is bored with life in a small town. She loves Chicago industrialist Neil Latimer who has a hunting lodge nearby. Rosa squeezes her husband's patients to pay their bills so she ... See full summary »
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>
Interesting, but what does this really teach you about Brigham Young or Mormonism?
You may want to know up front that I am not a Mormon, unlike a good number of those who have already reviewed this film. I mention this so you'll understand that the way I look at the film may differ greatly from those in the faith. For some, being critical of the film might be seen as being critical of the faith--and that is NOT my intention. So, my review is that of an outsider trying to look inside and learn more about who this man and his people were. Well, after seeing the film, I doubt if I have learned much at all. Since I have been a history teacher, I have a good basic understanding about Young as well as Joseph Smith as well as the teachings of the church. But anyone wanting to see this film to really learn anything will probably be disappointed because the film seems so gosh-darn nice--too nice and too unrealistic in its portrayal. Plus, you learn practically nothing about the church's beliefs other than they are nice people, work hard and some have many wives (and this latter part is only barely hinted at in the film). Instead, the people are almost cartoon-like in their simplistic portrayals. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and their followers are angelic, the non-Mormons were all devils and Brian Donlevy (playing EXACTLY the same sort of role Edward G. Robinson later played in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) is the trouble-maker who claims to be a Mormon but just comes along so the film can have a bad guy. It's all so very simple....too simple. Almost like an indoctrination film or infomercial.
Brigham Young especially was a very complex man--with many good points (an excellent organizer and visionary) as well as bad (don't even get me started on his views about Blacks within the church or intermarriage). To portray him in such vague terms is just plain silly. It's also a lot like how Gandhi was portrayed in the film with Ben Kingsley--only the facts that led to his being almost super-human were emphasized. Heck, now that I think about that, this is the trouble with most religious films--they often come off as one-dimensional, trite and bland. Let's have a full and more complete film of these men--one that will stick to facts and not emotional appeals.
Now if you can ignore the fact that you won't learn very much about the faith or its second leader, the film is enjoyable enough. It's obvious someone at 20th Century-Fox really cared about the film, as they had a wonderful cast of both premier actors (Tyrone Power), up and coming actors (Linda Darnell, Jane Darwell and Vincent Price) and wonderful character actors (Dean Jagger, John Carradine and Brian Donlevy). The film also had wonderful location shooting and lots of gloss. It just didn't have a lot to tell us other than they were all "swell". Plus, there were plenty of factual errors and a few just plain dumb scenes. A few of the mistakes include Young taking over the helm immediately after the death of Joseph Smith (it was three years later), no mention of the various Mormon denominations and splinter groups, talk of "gold in California"--even though it was 1847 and gold wouldn't be discovered until 1948, as well as no specific mention of polygamy or Smith's many wives. Just plain dumb scenes include Carradine pulling out a gun and waving it about in the courtroom scene--and no one seemed to care--even though it was a very hostile audience! Don't you think at least the judge would tell him to put it away and stop threatening people with it?!
One final comment. Do not, I repeat, do not watch this film when it's shown on American Movie Classics (a one great station that has sunk a lot in recent years). While I am critical of the film because of its simplistic message, I was horrified with the complete disrespect the station had for the church and its traditions. What I mean is this. The film was punctuated with ads for penis enlargement formulas as well as tons of pop-ups (some advertising a show that features the "sexiest cast"). Talk about disrespectful and gross and I would be just as offended if they did this for any other religious film. By doing this, they not only insult the faith but marginalize their market--after all, who is into hearing about these things AND the life of Brigham Young?! Is this a movie, in this form, that you can show to your kids or recommend to others?!
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