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.
Narrator: [first words of film]: The land has a name today, and is marked on maps.
The film won 3 Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Original Screenplay.