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USA 1962
Directed by
John Ford / Henry Hathaway / George Marshall
162 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

How The West Was Won

Made at a time when Hollywood was trying to woo a television-mad audience back to the cinema with ever more grandiose spectacles, this big budget MGM production was the first film made in the Cinerama three-camera/projector process.

Whilst it was a success in its day, being the top grossing film of 1962 and winning Oscars for screenplay (James R. Webb), film, editing (Harold F. Kress), and sound production (Franklin E. Milton), today it comes across as a sanitized hodge-podge of elements taken from the history of the Western (including musical versions!!) that, particularly given that it is no longer viewable in its original format, appears hopelessly dated (Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy was only 4 years away).

Based on a series of articles in Life magazine it tells of the settling of the American West through five approximately interlocking stories concerning one pioneering family, the Prescotts, who in 1839 leave from the Erie Canal to go West to start a new life in Ohio. The separate stories are directed by John Ford ("The Civil War"), Henry Hathaway ("The River", "The Plains," and "The Outlaws"), and George Marshall ("The Railroads") with Spencer Tracy as the narrator and a coda that shows us the West as it was in 1962 and over shots of LA freeways gives the audience a final rhetorical plug for truth, freedom and The American Way.




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