How The West Was Won started on TV as a 1970s spin-off of the wildly popular Oscar wining Cinerama feature film of 1963. Told over several years of varying formats, it's the story of Zeb Macahan, a rugged mountain man who has spent ten years in the Dakota Territory before returning to Virginia where his brother's family is getting ready to make the long trip west to escape the coming violence of the Civil War.
Just as the war begins, Zeb's brother Timothy returns east and his wife Kate is killed in an accident, leaving four children in Zeb's care. Luke, the oldest son, kills three men in self-defense and becomes a fugitive from the law; Laura is beautiful and ready to become a woman; Jessie is the tomboyish 12-year-old; and Josh is the exuberant teenager, anxious to become the man of the family. Aunt Molly, Kate's widowed sister, travels from Boston to help them on their travels, through perils and hardship caused by Indians, renegades, nature and other dangers.
Adding to the scope of the series was the spectacular setting. It was filmed in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Southern California. The executive producer was John Mantley, who had also been the producer of Gunsmoke and the pilot movie was filmed only two years after James Arness left the saddle as Marshall Matt Dillon.
How the West Was Won began it's TV run as the 1976 pilot movie The Macahans. It then returned as a top-rated miniseries in February of 1977. It came back for second "season" as a weekly series in 1978. Finally, the show returned for a third go around in early 1979 with 11 new two-hour stand-alone movies depicting the Macahans as they built a ranch in the Tetons and began to raise Appaloosa horses.
The entire series was extremely popular overseas, but has not yet been officially released on DVD, though a bootleg of mediocre quality taped off of Swedish television is available online.moreless