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How the West Was Won (1-Nov-1962)

Directors: John Ford; George E. Marshall; Henry Hathaway

Writer: James R. Webb

Music: Alfred Newman

Producer: Bernard Smith

Keywords: Western

Four generations of a New England family as they move westward, told episodically: The Rivers, The Plains, The Civil War, The Railroad, and The Outlaws. Among the most epic of epic westerns. Won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Sound and Best Editing; received additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score. Entered 1997 into the National Film Registry.

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NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Carroll Baker
28-May-1931   Baby Doll
Walter Brennan
25-Jul-1894 21-Sep-1974 Three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor
David Brian
5-Aug-1914 15-Jul-1993 Mr. District Attorney
Lee J. Cobb
8-Dec-1911 11-Feb-1976 The Left Hand of God
Andy Devine
7-Oct-1905 18-Feb-1977 Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok
Henry Fonda
16-May-1905 12-Aug-1982 12 Angry Men
Carolyn Jones
28-Apr-1929 3-Aug-1983 Morticia on The Addams Family
Karl Malden
22-Mar-1912 1-Jul-2009 Streets of San Francisco
Raymond Massey
30-Aug-1896 29-Jul-1983 Things to Come
Agnes Moorehead
6-Dec-1900 30-Apr-1974 Endora on Bewitched
Harry Morgan
10-Apr-1915 7-Dec-2011 Col. Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H
Gregory Peck
5-Apr-1916 12-Jun-2003 To Kill A Mockingbird
George Peppard
1-Oct-1928 8-May-1994 The A Team
Robert Preston
8-Jun-1918 21-Mar-1987 The Music Man
Debbie Reynolds
1-Apr-1932 28-Dec-2016 Dancer, actress
Thelma Ritter
14-Feb-1905 4-Feb-1969 Stella in Rear Window
Mickey Shaughnessy
5-Aug-1920 23-Jul-1985 Jailhouse Rock
Jimmy Stewart
20-May-1908 2-Jul-1997 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Russ Tamblyn
30-Dec-1934   Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Spencer Tracy
5-Apr-1900 10-Jun-1967 Two consecutive Best Actor Oscars
Eli Wallach
7-Dec-1915 24-Jun-2014 The Magnificent Seven
John Wayne
26-May-1907 11-Jun-1979 The Duke
Richard Widmark
26-Dec-1914 24-Mar-2008 Kiss of Death


Carroll Baker   ...   Eve Prescott
Lee J. Cobb   ...   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
Jimmy Stewart   ...   Linus Rawlings
Eli Wallach   ...   Charlie Gant
John Wayne   ...   William T. Sherman
Richard Widmark   ...   Mike King
Brigid Bazlen   ...   Dora Hawkins
Walter Brennan   ...   Col. Hawkins
David Brian   ...   Attorney
Andy Devine   ...   Cpl. Peterson
Raymond Massey   ...   Abraham Lincoln
Agnes Moorehead   ...   Rebecca Prescott
Harry Morgan   ...   Ulysses S. Grant
Thelma Ritter   ...   Agatha Clegg
Mickey Shaughnessy   ...   Deputy
Russ Tamblyn   ...   Confederate Soldier
Narrated by
Spencer Tracy   ...   Narrator


Review by Joe Durham (posted on 15-Feb-2008)

I was a Cinerama fan long before this movie came out, so it was thrilling just to be able to see it in Cinerama two or three times. It was a western on a huge scale, which hasn't been duplicated since. The actors were all familiar at the time, but I thought John Wayne should have been either the sheriff at the end or the George Peppard character at the end. I realize it was most probably John Ford who cast him in the Civil War episode, which Ford also directed. Ford did not like the Cinerama camera and reportedly had some particularly choice words to say about it. The best parts of the movie remain the building of the railroad with Richard Widmark as the man who thinks he owns the Union Pacific, the rivers with Karl Malden and Debbie Reynolds going to Ohio, and of course, the finale with Eli Wallach as the bad guy. The music was uplifting, and was surprising it didn't win an Oscar. But I believe I have that figured out. It had a lot of themes which were adapted by Alfred Newman into the score, but the main title theme is still one of the best. This was probably also why the Gone With the Wind music didn't win an Oscar either, because of the songs Max Steiner adapted into its score. I don't even remember the score which eventually won the year this was released. The film did have its problems. A scene which was later cut involved Debbie Reynolds and Agnes Moorehead crossing a river in the Conastoga wagon which was shown with a big power line in the background. Also, the story called for the characters in the first episode to go over the falls of the Ohio River. Since this was impossible, the scene suddenly shifts from the east to the west, then shifts back again after the scene is over. The scenes with Gregory Peck as the gambler are probably the weakest, and takes too long for this particular segment to unfold. A part about the Ohio River pirates with Walter Brennan as the head pirate is compelling and Brennan is particularly devious in this segment. I would like for someone to release a director's cut of this movie, since Heddy Lamar's part was completely cut out, as was a scene with some outlaws gunning down Henry Fonda. Of course, that would probably make the running time 3:30 or so, but look at the afore-mentioned GWTW and others. I'm also hoping for a release in the original Cinerama with the new smile-box process, which really would make it look better.

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