Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water.
Setting off on a journey to the west in the 1830s, the Prescott family run into a man named Linus, who helps them fight off a pack of thieves. Linus then marries daughter Eve Prescott (Carroll Baker), and 30 years later goes off to fight in the Civil War with their son, with bloody results. Eve's sister, Lily, heads farther west and has adventures with a professional gambler, stretching all the way to San Francisco and into the 1880s.Written by
Due to the detail that would have been shown via the Cinerama process, the costumes had to be sewn by hand, rather than with a sewing machine, as they would have been during the time periods depicted in the movie. See more »
Farmers would have known that burying the dead just off the river bank in the flood plane, would mean that the bodies would be washed away with the next flood. See more »
[as the camera pans over the Rocky Mountains]
This land has a name today, and is marked on maps. But, the names and the marks and the maps all had to be won, won from nature and from primitive man.
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Opening credits: Except for historical events and characters, the events and characters depicted in this photoplay are fictitious and any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. See more »
DVD versions list various running times: 150, 162, 165 minutes long. The theatrical version is listed as 162 minutes long. See more »
In the early 1960s Hollywood found itself under attack by television so had to wheel out some big guns . THE LONGEST DAY and HOW THE WEST WAS WON were a couple of these howitzers . Film,s that lasted several hours full of episodic structure with big names playing the characters . Watching these type of movies years later you can see the thinking behind them but do seem overblown with hindsight and you can also see why film makers wanted to make more intense movies via New Hollywood in the 1970s
That said HTWWW is by no means a bad movie . If there's a problem with it it's the narrative problem of trying to squeeze 100 years of history in to three hours of cinema and to a large degree the film succeeds to a large extent . It also deserves some credit for using Debbie Reynolds and George Peppard - neither of whom were the biggest names in the movie - to play the main linking characters
And yet the problem of the narrative is impossible to overcome entirely successfully . The story remains episodic and has every cliché under the sun . Men are men and women are thankful . White men tend to be extremely good or extremely bad and the indigenous population are noble savages who become mere savages when white man speak with forked tongue . There's also the annoying production value of people standing in front of back projection which jars with the numerous establishing shots taken on location. It's also a conservative film with God frequently getting a name check
But for the most part it's an entertaining Western even for those of us who don't like the genre . Perhaps the reason it does work is because it's so traditional where the world is portrayed in black and white , a world that has never existed in the first place
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