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How The West Was Won (1962)
The fifty years of American westward expansion between the 1830s and 1880s are viewed through the experiences of the Prescott and Rawlings families, as they migrate by the Erie Canal, continue over the prairies from St. Louis during the California gold rush, suffer through the Civil War, and finally help build the railroads on the plains and bring law and justice to the frontier. Along the way they meet mountain men, journey by wagon train, deal with Native Americans, and face outlaws in the southwest.
Carroll Baker ... Eve Prescott Rawlings
Lee J. Cobb ... Marshal Lou Ramsey
Henry Fonda ... Jethro Stuart
Carolyn Jones ... Julie Rawlings
Karl Malden ... Zebulon Prescott
Gregory Peck ... Cleve Van Valen
George Peppard ... Zeb Rawlings
Robert Preston ... Roger Morgan
Debbie Reynolds ... Lilith 'Lily' Prescott
James Stewart ... Linus Rawlings
Eli Wallach ... Charlie Gant
John Wayne ... Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Richard Widmark ... Mike King
Brigid Bazlen ... Dora Hawkins
Walter Brennan ... Col. Jeb Hawkins
Directed: John Ford / Henry Hathaway / George Marshal
DivX 5 / MP3 : Dual Audio
Audio 1: English
Audio 2: Spanish
I still remember seeing How the West Was Won in Cinerama when it made it into general release back in 1962. A motion picture theater equipped for Cinerama is the only way this one should be seen.
James R. Webb's original screenplay for the screen won an Oscar in 1962 and it involves an episodic account of the Presscott family and their contribution to settling the American west in the 19th century. We first meet the Presscotts, Karl Malden and Agnes Moorehead going west on the Erie Canal and later by flatboat on the Ohio River. They have two daughters, dreamy romantic Carroll Baker and feisty Debbie Reynolds. The girls meet and marry mountain man James Stewart and gambler Gregory Peck eventually and their adventures and those of their children are what make up the plot of How the West Was Won.
Three of Hollywood's top directors did parts of this film although the lion's share by all accounts was done by Henry Hathaway. John Ford did the Civil War sequence and George Marshall the sequence about the railroad.
The Civil War piece featured John Wayne and Harry Morgan in a moment of reflection at the battlefield of Shiloh. Morgan did a first rate job as Grant in his brief cameo and Wayne was playing Sherman for the second time in his career. He'd previously played Sherman in an unbilled cameo on his friend Ward Bond's Wagon Train series. I'm surprised Wayne never did Sherman in a biographical film, he would have been good casting.
If any of the stars could be said to be THE star of the film it would have to be Debbie Reynolds. She's in the film almost through out and in the last sequence where as a widow she goes to live with her nephew George Peppard and his family she's made up as a gray haired old woman and does very well with the aging. Debbie also gets to do a couple of musical numbers, A Home in the Meadow and Raise A Ruckus both blend in well in the story. Debbie's performance in How the West Was Won must have been the reason she was cast in The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
Cinerama was rarely as effectively employed as in How the West Was Won. I well remember feeling like you were right on the flatboat that the Presscott family was on as they got caught in the Ohio River rapids. The Indian attack and the buffalo stampede were also well done. But the climax involving that running gun battle between peace officers George Peppard and Lee J. Cobb with outlaw Eli Wallach and his gang on a moving train even on a formatted VHS is beyond thrilling.
There is a sequence that was removed and it had to do with Peppard going to live with buffalo hunter Henry Fonda and marrying Hope Lange who was Fonda's daughter. She dies and Peppard leaves the mountains and then marries Carolyn Jones. Lange's part was completely left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully there will be a restored version of How the West Was Won, we'll see Hope Lange and more of Henry Fonda.
All those Hollywood legends in one exciting film. They really don't make them like this any more.
* Some stock footage from other (non-Cinerama) epics were used. The Mexican army marching past the Alamo came from The Alamo (1960) and a civil war battle was taken from Raintree County (1957). The final scenes of the modern U.S. were from This Is Cinerama (1952).
* No ordinary "single-camera" version was filmed simultaneously with the Cinerama version, resulting in two noticeable dividing lines on the non-Cinerama theater prints, video, TV and DVD versions (indicating the three synchronized film strips originally used). The same problem occurred with the other Cinerama film in release at the time, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), which had not been shot in a "single-camera" version either. Both were MGM films.
* Since the three lenses of the Cinerama camera sat at angles to each other on the camera itself, it was very problematic for actors to film a scene as they would in front of a single-lensed camera. When their images were projected onto the three panels of the Cinerama screen, it would appear as though the actors were looking either slightly up-screen or slightly down-screen, and not directly at their fellow actors. This is very evident in a few scenes in the previous Cinerama film, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). However, by the time this film went into production, this problem was solved somewhat. In order to compensate for the lens angles, actors would have to look one-third of the way in and toward the camera, and pretend that they were looking at their fellow actors. Hence, when their images were projected onto the Cinerama screen, it would appear as though they were looking at each other. It was a very difficult process for actors, which is one of the reasons that three-panel Cinerama was abandoned for narrative films after this film was released.
* The first non-documentary Cinerama film, it was also one of the last to use the old three-camera technique, resulting in two very visible, somewhat distracting, dividing lines in the non-Cinerama print and all TV and home video versions.
* Hope Lange was cast as a love interest for George Peppard's character, but her scenes were cut from the final print of the film.
* Stuntman Bob Morgan was seriously injured, and almost died, while performing a stunt in this picture. Toward the end of the film, there is a gunfight on a moving train between the sheriff and a gang of train robbers. Morgan was one of the stuntmen playing a robber and was crouched next to a pile of logs on a flatcar. The chains holding the logs together snapped, and Morgan was crushed by the falling logs. He was so badly hurt it took him five years to recover to the point where he was able to move by himself and walk unaided.
* 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.
* Debbie Reynolds and George Peppard are the only cast members who appear in three of the five sequences in the film.
* One of the few American films to have its world premiere in London, England.
* Because the 2 dividing lines that separate the 3 separate projections could not be totally edited into a seamless match, the directors skillfully used camouflage techniques to disguise the lines. Some of the objects used for this were trees, lamp posts, window edges, porch rails, building corners, doorways and wooden crates which were positioned at these points.
* This was one of only two films made in true Cinerama which were shown in regular theatres after their first runs. None of the previous Cinerama films were ever shown in regular theatres because they were travelogues and documentaries made only to show off the process, as opposed to telling a story, and it would have been pointless to show these in a "regular" format.
* The train station in the film at "Gold City" was shot at Perkinsville, Arizona, and is still standing, although in a state of disrepair. It is now the mid stopping point of the Verde Canyon Scenic Railroad. The train station, the town sign and several other smaller buildings still exist.
* A comic book version of this film was published in conjunction with the film's release, as was the practice back then with all family and children's films. In the comic book, when Sheriff Ramsay (Lee J. Cobb) tries to prevent Zeb Rawlings (George Peppard) from going after the outlaw Gant (Eli Wallach), Rawlings whacks Ramsay over the head with his rifle and knocks him unconscious, which explains the bandage on Ramsay's forehead in the next scene. No such explanation is offered in the film; it is as if somebody had edited something out.
* Features more than 12,000 extras, including several Indian tribes.
La Conquista del Oeste (1962)
Audio 1: Ingles
Audio 2: Espanol
How The West Was Won (1962) es una película que aparece enmarcada en una época en la que el cine había declarado la guerra a la televisión, y en un desesperado intento por recuperar espectadores, los Estudios se volcaron a realizar películas con todo aquello que la televisión no podía ofrecer, como un reparto multitudinario de estrellas o un formato de pantalla más grande (Cinemascope, Todd-Ao, Cinerama, Vistavision...), capaz de envolver al espectador en su butaca. Rodada en Cinerama, y con un elenco de estrellas difícil de superar (hasta el narrador era un actor conocido, Spencer Tracy), el músico de la misma debía ser una estrella más, y así se pensó en Dimitri Tiomkin, pues además de dominar el género gozaba de un excelente momento de popularidad. Sin embargo Tiomkin, aún estando muy interesado en el proyecto, no lo pudo hacer al tener que someterse a una intervención quirúrgica ocular que le apartó definitivamente del filme. Se pensó entonces en Alfred Newman, el cual había abandonado la 20th Century Fox tras más de dos décadas como jefe del Departamento Musical del Estudio, y con una experiencia a sus espaldas fuera de toda duda. Como era de esperar aceptó, y con él su extraordinario colaborador y director coral Ken Darby.
La película era todo un caramelo para cualquier compositor; estructurada en cinco episodios, narra los avatares de la familia Prescott en sus deseos por colonizar el Oeste americano y esto ofrecía muchas posibilidades musicales, pues en los episodios hay de todo, desde romances y aventuras, hasta tragedias y escenas de acción. El primer gran acierto de Newman fue acoplar, para cada episodio, canciones populares americanas que, por su letra, encajaban perfectamente en él; baste, por ejemplo, citar I´m Bound For The Promise Land, para el primer episodio, donde los colonos anhelan llegar a una tierra metafóricamente prometida; o When Johnny Comes Marching Home, para ilustrar el magnífico episodio de John Ford de la Guerra Civil. La partitura tiene dos temas básicos: Home in the Meadow, que no es original de Newman sino una adaptación de la antigua melodía Greenleaves, que no pocos historiadores atribuyen al mismísimo Enrique VIII, y que aquí cumple, entre otras funciones, la de servir de nexo de unión a toda la familia Prescott. El otro tema es How The West Was Won (este sí compuesto por Newman), que aparece por vez primera en los títulos de crédito, y está dotado de una poderosa percusión y ritmo casi frenético; uno de los temas más famosos del compositor, hasta el punto de que es raro ver una recopilación de música del Oeste que no lo incluya.
Incomprensiblemente, este tema fue cortado en su edición discográfica original y en sucesivas reediciones de la partitura, y hubo que esperar hasta 1991 con el sello Sony, en una reedición con temas no incluídos en el disco oficial (en su mayoría se trataban de temas con diálogos y efectos de sonido), para que apareciera íntegro por vez primera. La edición de la casa Rhino ha sido muy esperada y es, en cuanto a su presentación se refiere, algo decepcionante; los CDs vienen en un estuche doble con una absurda fotografía en blanco y negro de la película sobre un mapa de los EEUU, y en el se elude cualquier referencia al Cinerama, cuando lo más lógico hubiese sido un edición estilo la de Ben-Hur (formato libro), en la que se hubiese podido lucir más la película. Pero si la presentación no está a la altura de la música, no se puede decir lo mismo del contenido de los discos -que en realidad es lo que realmente importa-, y este es francamente excepcional.
Esta edición contiene toda la música de la película; por breve que sea el fragmento musical, éste ha sido seleccionado. Incluso canciones que prácticamente pasan desapercibidas en la película, por su bajo nivel de grabación, quedan recogidas en él (por ejemplo, la escena nocturna en la que el personaje que interpreta Gregory Peck intenta conquistar al de Debbie Reynolds, tiene como fondo la espléndida canción Poor Wayfarin´ Stranger). Quienes teníamos el disco original y habíamos visto la película sabíamos que el disco era muy bueno, pero que era un pálido reflejo de la partitura a la que le faltaban fragmentos vitales tales como el Prólogo, el apoteósico final del episodio de la Guerra Civil, el tema del Pony Express, o el tema de la travesía de las caravanas, entre otros. Ahora no sólo están recogidos todos ellos, sino que aparecen versiones extendidas de numerosos cortes junto a una selección de temas grabados para la película pero desechados del montaje final. Entre éstos destaca la versión cantada del tema No Goodbye, sin lugar a dudas uno de los mejores temas compuestos por Newman en su extensa carrera.
La banda sonora fue nominada al oscar de 1962, y es, por derecho propio, una de las obras cumbres de la música cinematográfica.