How the West Was Won Reviews

  • Nov 24, 2020

    Beautifully shot,broad in scope and on the whole well acted. A little hammy in places and spoiled by Debbie Reynolds pantomime performance.

    Beautifully shot,broad in scope and on the whole well acted. A little hammy in places and spoiled by Debbie Reynolds pantomime performance.

  • Jul 19, 2020

    Like a million better films, but longer.

    Like a million better films, but longer.

  • Jun 03, 2020

    Framed as a sweeping epic that chronicles the struggles and realities of the great western expansion, today How the West Was Won just looks like a big, expensive gambit to sell the Cinerama concept to American moviegoers. It's a huge production, loaded with impressive location shots and big-name stars, plus three(!) directors, but the plot is less than daring and the cast fails to connect on a human level. Spreading the story over the course of fifty years and three generations probably has something to do with that. Even at nearly three hours, it's insufficient. A few familiar faces manage to persist through one or two decades, but a large number of players are shed each time the film leaps to a new chapter. That makes it tough to grow attached, though I guess strong characters were never really the point. Inspired by a popular historical feature in Life magazine, the goal seems to be a superficial dusting of landmark events and locations throughout the mid-1800s, with the cast there to, mostly, occupy the scenery and gape at all the hardships. I watched in a simulated "smilebox" format, with a curved letterbox to match Cinerama's wraparound screens, and after a bit of getting-used-to, it dutifully serves its purpose as a unique, tailored movie experience. The much wider field of vision brings the whole world to life, flooding the screen with unexpected little touches and details. It also lends the scenery a towering sense of majesty that completely justifies the expense of shooting so much footage on-location. One more benefit to the unique video format: by filming with three carefully-aligned cameras, producers had visual fidelity to spare. Modern transfers are effectively working with a 6K source, so the end product is absolutely gorgeous, an incredibly sharp product given its age. Unfortunately, the physical limitations of the hardware led to some uneasy acting requirements and effectively bound the directors' hands (no close-ups tighter than the waist, for instance). More of an uncertain balancing act than a complete, harmonious saga, it's like an extra-long version of the landscape-dominated films Disney likes to show at Epcot.

    Framed as a sweeping epic that chronicles the struggles and realities of the great western expansion, today How the West Was Won just looks like a big, expensive gambit to sell the Cinerama concept to American moviegoers. It's a huge production, loaded with impressive location shots and big-name stars, plus three(!) directors, but the plot is less than daring and the cast fails to connect on a human level. Spreading the story over the course of fifty years and three generations probably has something to do with that. Even at nearly three hours, it's insufficient. A few familiar faces manage to persist through one or two decades, but a large number of players are shed each time the film leaps to a new chapter. That makes it tough to grow attached, though I guess strong characters were never really the point. Inspired by a popular historical feature in Life magazine, the goal seems to be a superficial dusting of landmark events and locations throughout the mid-1800s, with the cast there to, mostly, occupy the scenery and gape at all the hardships. I watched in a simulated "smilebox" format, with a curved letterbox to match Cinerama's wraparound screens, and after a bit of getting-used-to, it dutifully serves its purpose as a unique, tailored movie experience. The much wider field of vision brings the whole world to life, flooding the screen with unexpected little touches and details. It also lends the scenery a towering sense of majesty that completely justifies the expense of shooting so much footage on-location. One more benefit to the unique video format: by filming with three carefully-aligned cameras, producers had visual fidelity to spare. Modern transfers are effectively working with a 6K source, so the end product is absolutely gorgeous, an incredibly sharp product given its age. Unfortunately, the physical limitations of the hardware led to some uneasy acting requirements and effectively bound the directors' hands (no close-ups tighter than the waist, for instance). More of an uncertain balancing act than a complete, harmonious saga, it's like an extra-long version of the landscape-dominated films Disney likes to show at Epcot.

  • May 22, 2020

    How the West Was Won is an interesting epic Western that follows four generations of a family from the East Coast to the Pacific. I do enjoy the performances of the all star cast like John Wayne to Gregory Peck, the direction, the Western settings, and the musical score. I do have some confusion towards the script because it goes on way to another without some explanation. Overall, How The West Was Won is an unique take towards the Old West and beyond.

    How the West Was Won is an interesting epic Western that follows four generations of a family from the East Coast to the Pacific. I do enjoy the performances of the all star cast like John Wayne to Gregory Peck, the direction, the Western settings, and the musical score. I do have some confusion towards the script because it goes on way to another without some explanation. Overall, How The West Was Won is an unique take towards the Old West and beyond.

  • Patricia
    Oct 02, 2019

    Fantastic family and historical saga. Terrific cast. Amazing cast. Beautiful musical score. Truly a treasured classic.

    Fantastic family and historical saga. Terrific cast. Amazing cast. Beautiful musical score. Truly a treasured classic.

  • Sep 30, 2019

    I was shocked to find myself enjoying this film when almost nothing about it interested me going in. While I definitely found myself tuning out in the last hour I appreciated the engagement with characters in the first two segments and the vibrant performances from Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck. The film is a massive production which is the most likely reason that it received a Best Picture nomination but at least most of the talent is put to good use as the visuals impressive and the wide scope can be appreciated. No, westerns are not my favorite genre but even I can admit that this film was a rollicking good time despite it's flaws. The film contains five sections, ‘The Rivers' directed by Henry Hathaway, ‘The Plains' also directed by Hathaway, ‘The Civil War' directed by John Ford, ‘The Railroad' directed by George Marshall and ‘The Outlaws' also directed by Hathaway. The Rivers concerns a young woman, Eve Prescott, Carroll Baker, who falls in love with an older fur trapper, Linus Rawlings, James Stewart, but their union is placed in turmoil when Rawlings is attacked by river pirates. The Plains follows a wealthy young heiress and entertainer, Lilith, Debbie Reynolds, who attracts the attention of gambler Cleve Van Valen, Gregory Peck, who abandons her after discovering that the fortune she was meant to inherit does not exist. The Civil War sees a young man eager to fight, Zeb, George Peppard, disappointing his mother Eve who fears his death but when he begins fighting he realizes the horrors of war. The Railroad explores the construction of transcontinental telegraph line through the eyes of Zeb, who wars with the greedy Mike King, Richard Widmark, over the treatment of local Native Americans. Finally, The Outlaw is about the conflict between Zeb and Charlie Gant, Eli Wallach, on the ranch that Eve owns. Like many of the big ensemble films to come out of this era it can feel like each cast member is essentially playing a version of themselves, or their best crafted on screen persona. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however as unlike The V.I.P.s (1963) these movie stars play to their talents here and it is fun to see Reynolds break out into a song and dance and John Wayne deliver his lines in that flat, monotonous voice. Similarly the characters in the film do feel more like broad types, "Sweet, innocent virgin" and "Older irascible rake in need of redemption", than real human beings with proper emotions. The screenplay could have used more fine tuning and it would have been nice to see some more nuanced acting but in terms of surface pleasure and easy gratification the film offers fulfill their purpose. The cinematography should also be noted as several stunning sequences could rival the special effects heavy spectacles put out today. The buffalo stampede has been noted as one of the film's greatest achievements and it does get the terror and excitement of the moment correct as we feel the strength and power of these animals as they rush past us. The battle on board the train also stays in your mind as while it borrows more than a little from Stagecoach (1939), one of many classic films that Ford directed, we laugh and cheer as our hero triumphs and the villain, played terrifically by Wallach, is ruined. The directors of the film are all capable of handling a production of this size and so while the moments of character development may feel a little rushed and trite we are willing to forgive them because the suspense and tension is all there in the crucial moments. Unfortunately, the film is also heavily flawed as it's portrayal of Native Americans has not aged well and as stated several times already this review the characters could use some strengthening. In The Railroad in particular the film feels like an antecedent of Dances with Wolves (1990) in it's patronizing treatment of Native Americans as it shifts the burdens they have onto a benevolent white man. The characters were all too simplified and it would have been nice to see more backstory for Reynolds' character or a longer courtship between Prescott and Rawlings. At the end of the day this is a film with real and sometimes problematic flaws but if you are willing to look past these there is a piece of solid entertainment in there.

    I was shocked to find myself enjoying this film when almost nothing about it interested me going in. While I definitely found myself tuning out in the last hour I appreciated the engagement with characters in the first two segments and the vibrant performances from Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck. The film is a massive production which is the most likely reason that it received a Best Picture nomination but at least most of the talent is put to good use as the visuals impressive and the wide scope can be appreciated. No, westerns are not my favorite genre but even I can admit that this film was a rollicking good time despite it's flaws. The film contains five sections, ‘The Rivers' directed by Henry Hathaway, ‘The Plains' also directed by Hathaway, ‘The Civil War' directed by John Ford, ‘The Railroad' directed by George Marshall and ‘The Outlaws' also directed by Hathaway. The Rivers concerns a young woman, Eve Prescott, Carroll Baker, who falls in love with an older fur trapper, Linus Rawlings, James Stewart, but their union is placed in turmoil when Rawlings is attacked by river pirates. The Plains follows a wealthy young heiress and entertainer, Lilith, Debbie Reynolds, who attracts the attention of gambler Cleve Van Valen, Gregory Peck, who abandons her after discovering that the fortune she was meant to inherit does not exist. The Civil War sees a young man eager to fight, Zeb, George Peppard, disappointing his mother Eve who fears his death but when he begins fighting he realizes the horrors of war. The Railroad explores the construction of transcontinental telegraph line through the eyes of Zeb, who wars with the greedy Mike King, Richard Widmark, over the treatment of local Native Americans. Finally, The Outlaw is about the conflict between Zeb and Charlie Gant, Eli Wallach, on the ranch that Eve owns. Like many of the big ensemble films to come out of this era it can feel like each cast member is essentially playing a version of themselves, or their best crafted on screen persona. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however as unlike The V.I.P.s (1963) these movie stars play to their talents here and it is fun to see Reynolds break out into a song and dance and John Wayne deliver his lines in that flat, monotonous voice. Similarly the characters in the film do feel more like broad types, "Sweet, innocent virgin" and "Older irascible rake in need of redemption", than real human beings with proper emotions. The screenplay could have used more fine tuning and it would have been nice to see some more nuanced acting but in terms of surface pleasure and easy gratification the film offers fulfill their purpose. The cinematography should also be noted as several stunning sequences could rival the special effects heavy spectacles put out today. The buffalo stampede has been noted as one of the film's greatest achievements and it does get the terror and excitement of the moment correct as we feel the strength and power of these animals as they rush past us. The battle on board the train also stays in your mind as while it borrows more than a little from Stagecoach (1939), one of many classic films that Ford directed, we laugh and cheer as our hero triumphs and the villain, played terrifically by Wallach, is ruined. The directors of the film are all capable of handling a production of this size and so while the moments of character development may feel a little rushed and trite we are willing to forgive them because the suspense and tension is all there in the crucial moments. Unfortunately, the film is also heavily flawed as it's portrayal of Native Americans has not aged well and as stated several times already this review the characters could use some strengthening. In The Railroad in particular the film feels like an antecedent of Dances with Wolves (1990) in it's patronizing treatment of Native Americans as it shifts the burdens they have onto a benevolent white man. The characters were all too simplified and it would have been nice to see more backstory for Reynolds' character or a longer courtship between Prescott and Rawlings. At the end of the day this is a film with real and sometimes problematic flaws but if you are willing to look past these there is a piece of solid entertainment in there.

  • Sep 27, 2019

    I enjoyed it altho some of the big name stars advertised for this film like John Wayne are only in it for a few minutes despite the advertising. It was a big old blockbuster with many big stars, a epic, semi-historical and patriotic film. It went from the time of early settlers out West in the beginning of the 1800s to the early 1900s with the establishment of small towns and law out West. All while following this Prescott family thru the generations. It was a longer film, but it didn't feel like it bc it covered so much and went over things fast. Some scenes really showed the power of nature back then like the buffalo stampede and the white rapids down the river, those scenes were shot very well for the time period. The cinematography of America throughout was breathtaking. There was just enough action scenes and just enough of plot and just enough of singing but not too much of any of it. There were some racial slurs in this movie and they kept referring to Natives as Injuns, but that was how they were called back then so its historically accurate. The only real down part was it was a bit shallow at times bc it moved so fast and it was very predictable with the good guys always coming out on top usually.

    I enjoyed it altho some of the big name stars advertised for this film like John Wayne are only in it for a few minutes despite the advertising. It was a big old blockbuster with many big stars, a epic, semi-historical and patriotic film. It went from the time of early settlers out West in the beginning of the 1800s to the early 1900s with the establishment of small towns and law out West. All while following this Prescott family thru the generations. It was a longer film, but it didn't feel like it bc it covered so much and went over things fast. Some scenes really showed the power of nature back then like the buffalo stampede and the white rapids down the river, those scenes were shot very well for the time period. The cinematography of America throughout was breathtaking. There was just enough action scenes and just enough of plot and just enough of singing but not too much of any of it. There were some racial slurs in this movie and they kept referring to Natives as Injuns, but that was how they were called back then so its historically accurate. The only real down part was it was a bit shallow at times bc it moved so fast and it was very predictable with the good guys always coming out on top usually.

  • Aug 18, 2019

    Great movie, have watched it a number of times. The music score is fantastic

    Great movie, have watched it a number of times. The music score is fantastic

  • Jul 02, 2019

    Big dumb fun. Don't look for historical accuracy...it's barely there.

    Big dumb fun. Don't look for historical accuracy...it's barely there.

  • Feb 19, 2019

    Movie is not a good descriptor of the title. This is a disjointed, ahistorical, laughable look at some of America's history, but done in the poorest way possible and acted by the rankest amateurs. In addition, the process by which it was filmed kept everything the same size always -- there were no close-ups or other camera variations, thus increasing the chances of a headache. Altogether a boring piece of wasted effort, this could have been so very much better. Would MGM have allowed such an atrocity to come out of its studios in the 30s, 40s, or 50s? Think of all the grand musicals they produced and then look at this. A bitter disappointment and a harbinger of things to come in the industry.

    Movie is not a good descriptor of the title. This is a disjointed, ahistorical, laughable look at some of America's history, but done in the poorest way possible and acted by the rankest amateurs. In addition, the process by which it was filmed kept everything the same size always -- there were no close-ups or other camera variations, thus increasing the chances of a headache. Altogether a boring piece of wasted effort, this could have been so very much better. Would MGM have allowed such an atrocity to come out of its studios in the 30s, 40s, or 50s? Think of all the grand musicals they produced and then look at this. A bitter disappointment and a harbinger of things to come in the industry.