Such was the scope of epic How The West Was Won that three veteran directors were hired to direct the various segments that went into telling the story of the opening up of the interior and west of America, from the early days of the mountain men through the Civil War to railroads criss-crossing the tamed continent.
And along with the quality directors came a cast of stars who were all at the peak of their box-office appeal, including James Stewart as Linus Rawlings, one of the mountain men whose trapping trips were the start of discovery, John Wayne as General Sherman in the Civil War and Debbie Reynolds at Lilith Prescott, one of the women who joined their men in the hazardous covered wagon train treks that were often attacked by Native Americans (the sequence in the film of such an attack used Native American actors, many of whom were direct descendants of those who battled the pioneers in the 19th century).
In addition to the big names, nearly 1,000 horses, 500 steers, 200 sheep, 1,200 buffalo and 200 wranglers were ’employed’ to give the film the epic feel required. The effort was well worth it: from the individual actors through the extras to the simply stunning exterior shots of America’s landscape, this is a landmark movie, winning three Oscars from eight nominations, interestingly the majority being for technical excellence rather than a named actor.
USA / 1962
Directors: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall
Writer: James R Webb
Cast: Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Debbie Reynolds, Karl Malden, John Wayne, Carroll Baker, Richard Widmark