How the West Was Won

Cinerama Productions Released 1963




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Movie Summary

John Ford , George Marshall , Henry Hathaway

How the West Was Won is a 1962 epic about a family that moves west from New York state to the Pacific Ocean in the 1830s. On their travels, the Prescott family encounter a friendly fur trapper, Linus Rawlings, and some anything-but-friendly river pirates; Rawlings comes to their rescue, and, after the Prescott parents are killed riding the rapids, marries one of the daughters, Eve. The other daughter, Lilith, decides to branch off from the expedition and become a riverboat singer. She meets and falls for an adventurous gambler, Cleve, and the two of them head west in a wagon train in search of fortune. Many years pass; men fight and die in the Civil War, the railroad comes and Indian wars are fought, law and order is slowly established. As the film closes, an elderly Lilith finally sees the settling of the west. The story is told in five separate segments, with three veteran directors and an all star cast, and it was one of the biggest box-office hits in the history of M-G-M.



Metacritic Score

  • 91

    Entertainment Weekly

    Despite wooden performances, the final feature filmed in true Cinerama is great fun and holds a wiiiiiide spot in cineasts' hearts.

  • 60

    Empire Kim Newman

    A grand folly, but lots to love.

  • 60

    Time Out

    The main problem remains the impossibility of subjecting a film that is fundamentally about landscape and history to the demands of such a coarse dramatic form.

Carroll Baker

Carroll Baker

Eve Prescott

Lee J. Cobb

Lee J. Cobb

Marshal Lou Ramsey

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda

Jethro Stuart

Carolyn Jones

Carolyn Jones

Julie Rawlings

Karl Malden

Karl Malden

Zebulon Prescott

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • John Ford directed the Civil War episode and George Marshall directed the sequences depicting the coming of the railroad. The rest was credited to Henry Hathaway, who, in a 1970s interview, tried to claim that he had actually re-filmed most of the Marshall footage and was severely critical of Ford's work. Both Ford and Marshall had died by this time. Hathaway also insisted that he had been an uncredited producer on the film. As the film was a far bigger box-office hit than Hathaway had ever previously had, these remarks may be inspired by egotism and thus not be strictly accurate; it is worth noting that Hathaway has also claimed the film had a budget of $9,800,000 for the film, whereas others have suggested it was more like $14,000,000. Presumably the difference was made up by the cost of the Ford and Marshall sequences.

    • In addition to the three credited directors, Richard Thorpe, a veteran employee of M-G-M studios then coming to the end of his long-term studio contract, directed a few bits and pieces, although nobody seems to know exactly which scenes they were.

    • This was the first fiction movie to be filmed in Cinerama, although it was not released in the United States until after the second one, The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm. The film took a very long time to make, and, curiously, opened in Great Britain ahead of the United States. Its British premiere was in November of 1962, some four months ahead of its American opening; hence it did not qualify for the 1962 Oscars.

  • QUOTES (1)

  • NOTES (1)


More Info About This Movie


Action & Adventure


Military & War