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.Written by
The film depicts the Prescott family taking the wrong channel on the Ohio River and going through rapids before the raft is wrecked. Eve settles at this location identified as being in Ohio. The only rapids on the Ohio are between Indiana and Kentucky (at Louisville). There are islands on the river creating channels but rapids or falls occur when a river drops to a lower level. It is impossible to have rapids or falls on one side of an island and smooth water on the other. See more »
[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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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 »
DVD versions list various running times: 150, 162, 165 minutes long. The theatrical version is listed as 162 minutes long. See more »
"How the West Was Won" is one of only two dramatic feature films made using Cinerama's three-strip process. Watching the film on home video represents a compromise but Warner's latest edition offers as good a presentation as you're likely to see outside of a Cinerama theatre.
The film, which was based on a series of 'Life' magazine articles, traces the fortunes of the Prescott family as they take part in the westward expansion in 19th century America. The story unfolds over several decades and touches on the Gold Rush, the Civil War and other periods in American history. James R. Webb's screenplay, while more entertaining than historically exhaustive, won him an Oscar.
The cast is about as star-studded a bunch as you're likely to see anywhere. Where else can you see Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda & John Wayne all in same film? Not to mention Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach, Richard Widmark, Walter Brennan and others too numerous to mention. Needless to say, the acting is in good hands.
Technically, the film looks quite nice. The Oscar-nominated cinematography is breath-taking and Alfred Newman's score is top-notch. However, the filming process made for an overabundance of long shots and there are a few instances of rear projection that frankly look bad next to the rest of the picture. Also, while not a fault per se, there are geometric distortions inherent in displaying the curved picture on a flat screen.
Yet, despite its minor imperfections, "How the West Was Won" is an attractive and engaging epic Western. As a history lesson, it's somewhat superficial but the combination of fine acting and stunning visuals make it well worth your time. Just be sure to pick up the Special Edition or Blu-ray release.
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