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Film: How the West Was Won

Stride by stride they tamed the savage prairie land
Nothing stopped them no wind nor rain nor sun
Side by side these pioneers from every land
All pulled together that's how the West was won

How the West Was Won is a 1962 motion picture by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was the last major feature filmed in the classic 3-strip Cinerama widescreen format. Tells the story of the westward-bound Prescott family through four generations and many events in American history. Famously, this movie stars over twenty big-name stars from the era, including James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Carroll Baker, John Wayne, Eli Wallach, and Gregory Peck. There were probably more stars in this movie than any other in the history of Hollywood. It had three directors, though one of them, Henry Hathaway, directed three of the five stories. The other two were John Ford and George Marshall (no, not the general). The epic music is also pretty famous.

There was a television show in the late-70's loosely based on the movie. Moderately successful in America, but a huge hit in Europe, where it's still well-known.


This film contains examples of:

  • Abraham Lincoln: Has a brief cameo, played by perennial Lincoln portrayer Raymond Massey.
  • The Cameo: Lee Van Cleef as one of the Indian rustlers, and Harry Dean Stanton as one of Gant's Mooks.
  • Cassandra Truth: Ultimately subverted concerning Gant; the town marshal initially doesn't believe Zeb when he claims that Gant is trying to cause trouble but later agrees to help his attempt to ambush Gant during a planned train robbery.
  • Due to the Dead: Being a pious man, Zebulon believes that everyone deserves some sort of funeral and a spot in Heaven, no matter what they did in life, so after he and his party (including Linus) defeat the Indian rustlers that tried to ambush them, they burn the casualties in a funeral pyre made from the rustlers' portable trading post and, at the end of a brief prayer led by Zebulon, intercede for the rustlers. Later, after he himself dies trying and failing to save his wife during a deadly trip along the rapids, their remains, upon recovery, are buried under a nearby tree.
  • Epic Movie
  • Faux Affably Evil: Gant.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The trope name is used as a Precision F-Strike in the title song.
  • Large Ham: The performances in this movie (most noticeably from Gregory Peck) tend to be "bigger" and more broad than what one generally expect from the genre. This is because the Cinerama photography made close-ups impossible, so the actors felt they had to "play up" their roles and emotions in order to make up for it.
  • My God, What Have You Done?: Zeb to the Confederate "deserter" he had befriended before being forced to kill him to protect Generals Grant and Sherman.
    Zeb Rawlings: Why did you make me do that?
  • Out-Gambitted: Gant didn't know Zeb's friend would agree to help ambush his gang during the attempted train robbery.
  • Precision F-Strike: In the title song, yet!
  • Scenery Porn
  • Sophisticated as Hell: "And now, let us pray: O Lord, we thank Thee for our salvation. We commit the souls of our dead to Thy gentle keepin'. We pray for the speedy recovery of our wounded. And now, another matter: O Lord, without consulting with Thee we have sent Thy way some souls whose evil ways passeth all understanding. We ask Thee humbly to receive them... whether You want 'em or not. Amen."
  • Title Drop

Hot Lead And Cold FeetIndex of Film WesternsJeremiah Johnson
The Human ConditionEpic MovieInception
West Side StoryNational Film RegistryHarold and Maude
CleopatraAcademy AwardMy Fair Lady
HatariFilms of the 1960sIf A Man Answers
HeartbreakersCreator/Metro-Goldwyn-MayerIn the Heat of the Night
Hovertank 3 DNeeds Wiki Magic LoveHungry Heart: Wild Striker

alternative title(s): How The West Was Won
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