How the West Was Won (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes

How the West Was Won (1963)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Filmed in panoramic Cinerama, this star-studded, epic Western adventure is a true cinematic classic. Three legendary directors (Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall) combine their skills to tell the story of three families and their travels from the Erie Canal to California between 1839 and 1889. Spencer Tracy narrates the film, which cost an estimated $15 million to complete. Westward expansion shows scenes of the Indian's sorrow, the white man's greed, river pirates, outlaws, lawmen, and life and death on the Western plains. Dozens of marquee names worked with over 12,000 extras, 630 horses, hundreds of horse drawn wagons, and a stampede of 2,000 buffalo. The human cost of the concept of Manifest Destiny is revealed in all its colorful and violent glory. How the West Was Won garnered three Oscars, for screenplay, film editing, and sound production.more
Rating: G
Genre: Western, Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By: , , ,
Written By: James Webb, James R. Webb
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 30, 2006
Warner Home Video


Debbie Reynolds
as Lilith Prescott
George Peppard
as Zeb Rawlings
Carroll Baker
as Eve Prescott
James Stewart
as Linus Rawlings
Gregory Peck
as Cleve Van Valen
Richard Widmark
as Mike King
Henry Fonda
as Jethro Stuart
Robert Preston
as Roger Morgan
Karl Malden
as Zebulon Prescott
Thelma Ritter
as Agatha Clegg
Carolyn Jones
as Julie Rawlings
Agnes Moorehead
as Rebecca Prescott
Eli Wallach
as Charlie Gant
John Wayne
as General Sherman
Lee J. Cobb
as Lou Ramsey
Brigid Bazlen
as Dora Hawkins
Walter Brennan
as Col. Hawkins
David Brian
as Attorney
Andy Devine
as Cpl. Peterson
Raymond Massey
as Abraham Lincoln
Harry Morgan
as Gen. Ulysses S. Gran...
Mickey Shaughnessy
as Deputy Marshall
Russ Tamblyn
as Reb Soldier
Tudor Owen
as Scotsman
Barry Harvey
as His Son
Jamie Ross
as His Son
Kim Charney
as Sam Prescott
Bryan Russell
as Zeke Prescott
Claude Johnson
as Jeremiah Rawlings
Jerry Holmes
as Railroad Clerk
Rodolfo Acosta
as Desperado
Ken Curtis
as Union Soldier
Clinton Sundberg
as Hylan Seabury
Walter Burke
as Gambler
Joe Sawyer
as Ship's Officer
John Larch
as Grimes
Jack Pennick
as Cpl. Murphy
Craig Duncan
as James Marshall
Paul Bryar
as Auctioneer's assista...
Gil Perkins
as Henchman
Kem Curtis
as Ben, Union Corporal
Walter Reed
as Union Soldier
Carleton Young
as Union Soldier
Karl Swenson
as Train conductor
Jack Lambert
as Gant henchman
Christopher Dark
as Poker player
Gene Roth
as Riverboat poker play...
William Henry
as Staff Officer
Ken Dibbs
as Blacksmith
Red Perkins
as Union Soldier
Roy Jenson
as Henchman
Victor Romito
as Henchman
Harvey Parry
as Henchman
Beulah Archuletta
as Indian woman
Harry Monty
as Uncredited
Spencer Tracy
as Narrator
Henry "Harry" Morgan
as Gen. Ulysses S. Gran...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for How the West Was Won

Critic Reviews for How the West Was Won

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | August 26, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 13, 2001
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Delivered big with breathtaking location work and an all-star cast...

Full Review… | September 10, 2008
Groucho Reviews

A story as big, as brash, and as exciting as the west itself.

Full Review… | September 10, 2008

Audience Reviews for How the West Was Won


Pratically defining the word sprawling this phenomenal drama of the settling of the west is so much more than a conventional western. Directed by three top flight directors all three segments have a slightly different feel but join together into a harmonious whole. Again the phrase once in a lifetime cast could have been invented for this film with a star of some magnitude in almost every role, all of whom give good performances. The real standouts in terms of acting are probably George Peppard and Carroll Baker, they share a particularly poignant scene when he goes off to war, but Debbie Reynolds ties the whole thing together and she's full of snap and verve. The always welcome Thelma Ritter is a most amusing frontier woman. Shot on a massive scope this is enjoyable in any form but if you have the opportunity to see the Blu-Ray version on a large screen that's as near to ideal as you'll get. This film is what the movies are all about.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


Any Western with this cast is worth a glimpse. Very interesting story of the American history on a grand scale. This movie in effect tells the fourth story - and tells it in a thrilling, colorful way - from the 1840s when the frontier was still the Ohio Valley to about 1885 - not so long a time. These stories brought two actors, Debbie Reynolds and George Peppard, in two of each stories.
This is stunning - beautifully cast - music you'll always remember - and many powerful and moving scenes.

Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

You have to hand it to everyone involved, this is one mammoth viewing experience. This covers generations as well as historical events like no other movie has attempted to do. I think the wisest decision was having multiple directors so each time period has a different feeling and vision. With a huge western ensemble, this is no short of fun to watch. Most of the known actors play some of their suited roles and serve as a time frame for the genre itself. What's interesting is that the segments get richer and more defined as they go along, rather than decrease in quality. Now this isn't a character movie in a traditional way, I don't even think there is a close up shot at all. However, this shows the progression of the west from a dream to a reality.

Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer

How the West Was Won Quotes

Narrator: The west was won by its pioneers, settlers, adventurers is long gone now. Yet it is theirs forever, for they left tracks in history that will never be eroded by wind or rain - never plowed under by tractors, never buried in compost of events. Out of the hard simplicity of their lives, out of their vitality, of their hopes and sorrows grew legends of courage and pride to inspire their children and their children's children. From soil enriched by their blood, out of their fever to explore and be, came lakes where once there were burning deserts - came the goods of the earth; mine and wheat fields, orchards and great lumber mills. All the sinews of a growing country. Out of their rude settlements, their trading posts came cities to rank among the great ones of the world. All the heritage of a people free to dream, free to act, free to mold their own destiny.
– Submitted by Sarfaraz A (3 years ago)

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