175 user 41 critic

How the West Was Won (1962)

3:03 | Trailer
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.


James R. Webb
Won 3 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Carroll Baker ... Eve Prescott
Lee J. Cobb ... Marshal Lou Ramsey
Henry Fonda ... Jethro Stuart
Carolyn Jones ... Julie Rawlings
Karl Malden ... Zebulon Prescott
Gregory Peck ... Cleve Van Valen
George Peppard ... Zeb Rawlings
Robert Preston ... Roger Morgan
Debbie Reynolds ... Lilith Prescott
James Stewart ... Linus Rawlings
Eli Wallach ... Charlie Gant
John Wayne ... Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Richard Widmark ... Mike King
Brigid Bazlen ... Dora Hawkins
Walter Brennan ... Col. Jeb Hawkins


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 Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Great Dramatic Motion Picture That Puts YOU In Every Scene! See more »




G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Although James Stewart's character was only supposed to be 28 in the movie, Stewart was actually 53 at the time of filming. See more »


There is no explanation of why Sheriff Ramsey is fine in one scene and wearing a bandage on his forehead in the next, immediately following. (There was a deleted or unfilmed scene where Zeb knocked Ramsey out when the Sheriff tried to stop him from going after the train robbers.) See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: [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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Crazy Credits

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 »

Alternate Versions

The 164 minute film has been digitally restored for Blu-ray DVD, with both a stitched wide-screen version and a "Smilebox" version that simulates the Cinerama wrap around. The restoration gives a unified single image, and completely removes the vertical lines that separate the three camera images, as well as the small jitter that was evident at the intersection of the three original film images. See more »


Referenced in American Masters: Tyrus (2017) See more »


Raise a Ruckus
Music Adapted by Robert Emmett Dolan (uncredited)
Lyrics adapted by Johnny Mercer
Performed by Debbie Reynolds (uncredited) and Chorus
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User Reviews

A star-studded Western epic
20 June 2010 | by sme_no_densetsuSee all my reviews

"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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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Arapaho

Release Date:

20 February 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

How the West Was Won See more »


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$28,568, 14 September 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints)| Cinerama 7-Track (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Metrocolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

2.89 : 1
See full technical specs »

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