How the West Was Won

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Product Overview

Follows one brave family through generations and miles as it pushes west.


Studio Warner
SKU 207988454
UPC 012569799714
UPC 14 00012569799714
Format DVD
Release Date 11/8/2011
Civil War
Essential Cinema
Family Interaction
Theatrical Release
Editors Note
Note Hollywood's most celebrated luminaries--behind the camera as well as in front of it--combined talents to present this epic tale of the development of the American West from the 1830s through the Civil War to the end of the century, as seen through the eyes of one pioneer family. The film, divided into three chapters--"The Civil War" (directed by John Ford), "The Railroad" (directed by George Marshall), and "The River, the Plains, the Outlaws" (directed by Henry Hathaway)--tells the story of the Prescotts, a spirited group of easterners who make a declaration to migrate west. When their parents are lost in a tragic river accident, Eve (Carroll Baker) and Lilith (Debbie Reynolds) go their separate ways. Eve remains on the land that took her parents, settling down with the well-intentioned Linus Rawlings (James Stewart), while Lilith becomes a singer who is courted by the conniving Cleve Van Valen (Gregory Peck) when he learns that she has inherited a fortune in California. As time passes and the Civil War takes the life of Linus, the newest generation of Prescott offspring struggles with even greater danger and loss, in the form of fierce Indians as well as family archrivals. Top-notch production values and an endless string of solid performances have earned HOW THE WEST WAS WON the well-deserved label as one of Hollywood's most revered classics.
Plot Summary
Summary Epic and episodic tale of the development of the American West from the 1830s through the Civil War to the end of the century, as seen through the eyes of the pioneer Prescott family. As the Prescotts struggle with danger and loss, and newfound love, the vast canvas of US history unfolds around them. Top notch production values and a "who's who" of performances have solidified this as a Hollywood classic.
Memorable Quotes
Quote "That goddamned Cinerama... do you know a waist shot is as close as you could get with that thing?" -- Henry Hathaway
Quote "The epic journey of four generations of Americans who carved out a country with their bare hands." -- line from the poster for the 1970 reissue
USA Today "Hollywood's definitive all-star Western pageant....There's plenty of nostalgia to be gleaned from seeing James Stewart, John Wayne, Henry Fonda and so many more in their superstar primes..." 08/14/1998 p.6E
Entertainment Weekly "The buffalo stampede, rapids run, and train robbery sequences are seamless..." -- Grade: A- 09/19/2008 p.56
New York Times "[T]he open-air sequences...with their unmoving camera, long-shot compositions and rootedness in the rural landscape, recall the work of the American pioneer D.W. Griffith." 09/08/2008
Total Film 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A]n epic western of staggering scale and ambition....The buffalo stampede is a pummelling experience on the small screen; writ large, it must have been terrifying." 12/01/2008 p.148
Henry Hathaway
George Marshall
John Ford
James Stewart
John Wayne
Gregory Peck
Cast & Crew
Carroll Baker - Star
Debbie Reynolds - Star
Robert Preston - Star
James Stewart - Star
Richard Widmark - Star
John Wayne - Star
Henry Fonda - Star
Carolyn Jones - Star
Gregory Peck - Star
Spencer Tracy - Star
George Peppard - Star
Karl Malden - Star
Lee J. Cobb - Star
Eli Wallach - Star
William Daniels - Director of Photography
William Ferrari - Production Designer
George W. Davis - Production Designer
Addison Hehr - Production Designer
Ken Darby - Composer
James R. Webb - Screenwriter
Bernard Smith - Producer
Alfred Newman - Composer
Harold F. Kress - Editor
Milton R. Krasner - Director of Photography
Charles Lang - Director of Photography
Harold Wellman - Director of Photography
Joseph La Shelle - Director of Photography
Henry Hathaway - Director
George Marshall - Director
John Ford - Director
Technical Info
Original Release Date 1962
Catalog ID 1000019114
UPC 00012569799714
Number of Discs 2
Running Time 162 minutes
Color Color
Original Language English
Available Audio Tracks English
Aspect Ratio
Widescreen  2.35:1
Oscar (1964) Alfred Newman, Ken Darby, Nominee, Best Music, Score - Substantially Original,Bernard Smith, Nominee, Best Picture,Franklin Milton, Winner, Best Sound,George W. Davis, et. al., Nominee, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color,Harold F. Kress, Winner, Best Film Editing,James R. Webb, Winner, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen,Walter Plunkett, Nominee, Best Costume Design, Color,William H. Daniels, et. al., Nominee, Best Cinematography, Color
ReviewSource Variety
Review It would be hard to imagine a subject which lends itself more strikingly to the wide-screen process than this yarn of the pioneers who opened the American West. It's a story [suggested by the series How the West Was Won in Life magazine] which naturally puts the spotlight on action and adventure, and the three directors between them have turned in some memorable sequences...George Marshall [credited with the final segment, The Railroad] has the credit for the buffalo stampede, started by the Indians when the railroad was moving out West. This magnificently directed sequence is as vivid as anything ever put on celluloid. Undoubtedly the highlight of Henry Hathaway's contribution [The Rivers, the Plains, the Outlaws] is the chase of outlaws who attempt to hold up a train with a load of bullion. John Ford's directorial stint [The Civil War] is limited to the Civil War sequences, and though that part does not contain such standout incident, there is the fullest evidence of his high professional standards...Peck gives a suave and polished gloss to his role of the gambler, and Stewart has some fine, if typical, moments in his scenes...John Wayne has a minor part as General Sherman, but he, too, makes the charactor stand out. Spencer Tracy is heard but not seen as the narrator.
ReviewRating 9
ReviewSource Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Review The first film in Cinerama. Watching it at home without the three-strip Cinerama process takes most of the sparkle out of the film. It's a sprawling epic with an all-star cast that follows the development of the West through one pioneering New England family of Zebulon Prescott, who in 1839 leave from the Erie Canal to go West to start a new farm in Ohio. It follows Zebulon Prescott's children and grandchildren for the next fifty years in their western adventures, some reaching California. Spencer Tracy is the narrator. John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall do the directing honors, each handling individual episodes. Hathaway does a nice job in his three sequences ("The River", "The Plains," and "The Outlaws"). He tells of the adventure of America's westward expansion. Ford's fifteen-minute sequence on the Civil War is the highlight of the film. It tells the tale of a coming-of-age farm boy (George Peppard) saving General U.S. Grant from a Confederate assassination attempt during the Battle of Shiloh. The rest of the film is unbearably dull and muddled, doing more for getting at the landscape and its numerous genial pioneering tunes than nailing it down in dramatics...The top grossing film of 1962 won Oscars for screenplay (James R. Webb), film editing (Harold F. Kress), and sound production (Franklin E. Milton).
Reviewer Dennis Schwartz
ReviewRating 7
DVD, Special Edition
Product Attributes
Video Format DVD
John Douglas Eames, The MGM Story Enough plot twists and spectacular climaxes to equip a dozen movies.
Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide ...great cast, first-rate photography and lovely Alfred Newman score still make it top entertainment.
Steve Crum, Immense, sprawling western epic loaded with great stars, acting, music, direction.
The Motion Picture Guide A great epic, a wonderful western, a thrilling and poignant motion picture by any standard...
VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever ...impressive cast...Expansive western settings.

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