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Sunday, December 18, 2016

How The West Was Won (1962)

A farmer (Karl Malden), his wife (Agnes Moorehead) and their two daughters (Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker) set out from Illinois to the Western frontier to build a new life. But the journey will be fraught with danger and not all of them will make it but they will become part of the pioneers who build the West. This massive Oscar nominated epic was shot in the 3 panel Cinerama process, runs nearly 3 hours with an intermission, utilized three official directors (Henry Hathaway, John Ford, George Marshall) and a cast of 25 major stars plus many familiar supporting players. But they forgot the most important element ... a decent script. It would take more than 3 hours to show how the West was "won" so what we're given is a pedestrian western with soap opera elements, mundane dialog and a simplistic narrative. Only Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck manage to develop their characters beyond a sketch. However, visually, especially if seen in Cinerama, this is a pretty spectacular film. Cinerama had an unusually impressive depth of field which is accentuated by 4 major set pieces: the raft on the rapids, the Cheyenne wagon train attack, the buffalo stampede and the train robbery. The underscore by Alfred Newman is simply sensational. With John Wayne, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Eli Wallach, Lee J. Cobb, Walter Brennan, Carolyn Jones, Lee Van Cleef, Thelma Ritter, Russ Tamblyn, Raymond Massey and Brigid Bazlen. 

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