Union Pacific (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

Union Pacific (1939)

Union Pacific (1939)

Union Pacific





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Union Pacific Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Cecil B. DeMille takes us back to the 1860s, then rebuilds the first intercontinental railroad in Union Pacific. The real-life spectacle is occasionally interrupted by the fictional adventures of railroad overseer Joel McCrea, postmistress Barbara Stanwyck (with an incredible Irish brogue), and McCrea's best pal Robert Preston. Unfortunately Preston has fallen in with Brian Donlevy, who is dedicated to destroying the Union Pacific railroad on behalf of a crooked political cartel. During an Indian attack, McCrea and Preston fight side by side to save Stanwyck, prompting Preston to turn honest. On the day in 1869 that the "Golden Spike" is to be driven at Promontory Point, Preston is killed saving McCrea from Donlevy's bullets. Union Pacific owes a great deal to John Ford's 1924 film on the same subject, The Iron Horse, even restaging one or two major action sequences from the earlier film. This DeMille spectacular was a big hit with audiences of 1939, who craved a booster shot of flag-waving now and again.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Western, Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Ernest Haycox, Walter DeLeon, Jesse Lasky, Walter DeLeon, C. Gardner Sullivan
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 23, 2006
Paramount Pictures


Joel McCrea
as Capt. Jeff Butler
Robert Preston
as Dick Allen
Brian Donlevy
as Sid Campeau
Barbara Stanwyck
as Molly Monahan
Lynne Overman
as Leach Overmile
Anthony Quinn
as Jack Cordray
Stanley Ridges
as Gen. Casement
Henry Kolker
as Asa M. Barrows
Francis McDonald
as Gen. Grenville M. Do...
Sid Saylor
as Barker
Harold Goodwin
as E.E. Calvin
Evelyn Keyes
as Mrs. Calvin
Richard Lane
as Sam Reed
William Haade
as Dusky Clayton
Regis Toomey
as Paddy O'Rourke
Harry Woods
as Al Brett
Lon Chaney Jr
as Dollarhide
Joseph Crehan
as Gen. U.S. Grant
Joe Sawyer
as Shamus
Byron Foulger
as Andrew Whipple
Jack Pennick
as Harmonica Player
Ruth Warren
as Mrs. Cassidy
Richard Alexander
as Card Player
Max Davidson
as Card Player
Dutch Hendrian
as Card Player
Jim Pierce
as Card Player
Walter Long
as Irishman
Monte Blue
as Indian
John Merton
as Laborer
David Newell
as Reporter
Chief Thundercloud
as Indian Brave
Ray Mala
as Indian Brave
Iron Eyes Cody
as Indian Brave
Sonny Chorre
as Indian Brave
Greg Whitespear
as Indian Brave
Richard Robles
as Indian Brave
James Pierce
as Card Player
Tony Urchell
as Indian Brave
Earl Askam
as Bluett
John Marston
as Dr. Durant
Morgan Wallace
as Sen. Smith
Russell Hicks
as Sergeant
May Beatty
as Dr. Harknes
Stanley Andrews
as Dr. Harknes
Guy Usher
as Leland Stanford
Gus Glassmire
as Gov. Stafford
Paul Everton
as Rev. Dr. Tadd
Frank Yaconelli
as Accordion Player
Elmo Lincoln
as Card Player
Syd Saylor
as Barker
Lane Chandler
as Conductor
Nestor Paiva
as C.P. Conductor
Mary MacLaren
as Official's Wife
Jane Keckley
as Official's Wife
Ida May
as Goldie
Nora Cecil
as Snoring Woman on Tra...
Noble Johnson
as Native American Shoo...
Si Jenks
as Old Prospector
Louis Natheaux
as Card Player
Wilbur Mack
as Jake - Bartender
Edward J. Le Saint
as Father Ryan
Sam McDaniel
as St. Louis Waiter
Ernie S. Adams
as Gen. Sheridan
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Union Pacific

Critic Reviews for Union Pacific

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 28, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 10, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Released in 1939 and boasting patriotic zeal, DeMille's empire-building epic is one of his most impressive pictures, with wonderful performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea at their peak.

Full Review… | August 15, 2008

It has the grand sweep of a DeMille film.

Full Review… | May 18, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Rip-snortin', old-fashioned Western, with understated McCrea and hammy Stanwyck a great team.

September 1, 2006
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Audience Reviews for Union Pacific


Typical overblown, overlong DeMille epic. Stanwyck is excellent as always although the 30's eyebrows are a bit distracting.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

DeMille, yes, but not truly epic, since the film's just too saddled down with a love triangle plotline with Barbara Stanwyck as pivot gal.

Stanwyck delivers brogue Irish well and she's interesting enough to watch, but the romantic melodrama shares at least equal stage, if not more, with the advertised theme of forging America's first intercontinental railway.

And even much of that story feels fairly cliche - Injun attacks, trestle collapses, train robberies and such. There's not much truly historical footing to be found here either. In fact, the Chinese coolie labor is conspicuously absent.

Oddly, this film was awarded the 1939 Palme d'Or - retroactively in 2002. The first official Cannes was in 1940, but it apparently wanted to be on record regarding 1939, classic Hollywood's most golden year. They couldn't really award it to any of the titles hindsight now honors - and still be insightful - so, pass the envelope please, it's Union Pacific!

RECOMMENDATION: It's no Saturday afternoon oater, it's better-than-average Western fare compared to its period but, again, it's not truly epic in scope. Consider checking out a far-feistier Stanwyck in "The Furies" (1950) instead.

TonyPolito Polito

No way! No way that Joel McCrea could survive all that sh*t. He should have been dead, like, five times. I mean, not as many times as the Charlie's Angels would have been...but nonetheless.

Cecil B. Demille certainly knows how to make things epic. This is a huge movie. Sure, he's using obvious models, but that was normal at the time. Who can hold that against him? Besides, I got me an imagination. I can use it every so often, then so can you. I mean, there's sh*t blowing up left and right. Not so much with the fire, but a train hitting a water tower or falling off a snowy hill. Tell me the last time you've seen two separate train accidents in one movie. Lord knows I haven't and I've seen a lot of sh*t. Man... crazy!

I love Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck. Putting them in a western is a genius idea. McCrea is just a badass nice guy. He can do no wrong in this movie (even though he does and no one has a problem with it). But he's got this tortured life because of a friend. And to be honest, I love when friends are enemies in a story. That creates a fantastic dynamic. It's the whole Clark Kent / Lex Luthor aspect in Smallville. That's right. I just compared a great American classic to a television show on the CW. I'm a turd.

But I did really like this movie. The cast is fantastic, the action is actually pretty great. There's this one scene that's really just exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. The scene of trying to get the payroll back was killer. I mean, Barbara Stanwyck is kind of a b*tch for lying, but she's doing it to save Joel McCrea's life. On top of that, even after the whole bit is over, Stanwyck saves McCrea? I mean, this guy just pressured her to marry him by threatening to kill the man she loved. I understand that there's this sacred vow of marriage and that she's Irish (one day I'll break into the whole Irish thing), but really? I mean, I expected her to shoot him. That would be a hell of a story. She has to sit and rot in prison because she murdered a man who stole the payroll, and McCrea would have to watch her? But that didn't happen. I guess I am pretty grateful for that because this movie was really kind of fantastic.

It ends a bit too neatly. Part of me was happy about that, but the other half called bullsh*t on that one. I mean, yeah, it's 1939 and you have this ruckus action love story. You really can't end it negatively, but I always like those endings so much better. Why? Because I have a hard heart, that's why! But either way, the movie absolutely fantastic and I'm a better man for watching it.

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