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Westward the Women
     

Westward the Women

Director: William Wellman,

Cast: Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Hope Emerson

 

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Though Frank Capra wrote the original story treatment for MGM's Westward the Women, he was too busy to direct the film, and handed the reigns instead to his former Liberty Films partner William A. Wellman. This stark, no-nonsense outdoor drama stars Robert Taylor as a trail guide named Buck, who in 1851 is hired by California settler Roy Whitman (John McIntyre)

Overview

Though Frank Capra wrote the original story treatment for MGM's Westward the Women, he was too busy to direct the film, and handed the reigns instead to his former Liberty Films partner William A. Wellman. This stark, no-nonsense outdoor drama stars Robert Taylor as a trail guide named Buck, who in 1851 is hired by California settler Roy Whitman (John McIntyre) to head a wagon train full of mail-order brides from Chicago to the West Coast. Though Buck spares the brides nothing in describing the hardships they're about to face, most of the ladies agree to undertake the journey. Starting out with 104 women, Buck leads the expedition through some of the most treacherous territory in the West. Several of the women die en route, killed off by the elements, Indian attacks, and sundry unexpected mishaps. Most of the male travellers likewise fall victim to disaster, save for Buck and his courageous Japanese cook Ito (Henry Nakamura). Even when the wagon train reaches its destination, the story is far, far from over. Though second-billed Denise Darcel is the most prominent of the women, the large cast generally works as an ensemble, with everyone pitching together for the common good, just as their real-life counterparts had done back in the 1850s. Throughout, the film abruptly (and effectively) switches moods, veering precipitously from raucous comedy to profound tragedy (some of the deaths occur so suddenly that they can still elicit gasps from the audience). An expertly assembled and reasonably realistic saga, Westward the Women is one story that needs to be told in black-and-white; the currently available colorized version should be avoided like the plague.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
An extremely unusual Western, especially given the time in which it was made, Westward the Women has a great deal going for it. Chief among its virtues is its story and the treatment of the female characters therein. The trek of mail order brides across an incredibly dangerous West is full of suspense, intrigue, humor, adventure and tragedy. And director William Wellman and screenwriter Charles Schnee do not pamper the women involved; they are unglamorized, called upon to get as dirty and tough as any men would do in a Western. They also are as prone to death and injury as any man would be in a similar film. This fascinatingly egalitarian treatment reveals the strength that actual pioneer women had to possess and pays fine tribute to them and their spirit. Wellman also utilizes his location shooting to very good effect, making the landscape a part of the story rather than just decoration. As the male leader of the troupe, Robert Taylor gives one of his finest performances, relishing the range that the role provides. He's supported by excellent work from a strong Hope Emerson, a sympathetic Renata Vanni, a spirited Lenore Lonergan and an amiable Henry Nakamura. Taylor's love interest, Denise Darcel, is only adequate, which does damage the film somewhat, especially in the second half; when Darcel and Taylor's relationship moves forward, the film is much less interesting. Still, Westward overcomes this flaw, offering the viewer several powerful scenes -- the attack, the birth, the climactic "prettification" -- that stick with the viewer and linger long after the movie is over.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/10/2012
UPC:
0883316395875
Original Release:
1951
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:56:00
Sales rank:
767

Special Features

Audio commentary by film historian Scott Eyman; Vintage M-G-M promotional featurette Challenge the Wilderness; Original theatrical trailer

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Taylor Buck Wyatt
Denise Darcel Fifi Danon
Hope Emerson Patience Hawley
John McIntire Roy Whitman
Julie Bishop Laurie Smith
Henry Nakamura Ito
Lenore Lonergan Margaret O'Malley
Marilyn Erskine Jean Johnson
Renata Vanni Mrs. Moroni
Beverly Dennis Rose Meyers
George Chandler Actor
Bruce Cowling "Cat"
Frankie Darro Actor
Guido Martufi Antonio Moroni
Dorothy Granger Actor

Technical Credits
William Wellman Director
Jeff Alexander Score Composer
Frank Capra Original Story
Daniel B. Cathcart Art Director
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Ralph S. Hurst Set Decoration/Design
William C. Mellor Cinematographer
James Newcom Editor
Walter Plunkett Costumes/Costume Designer
Dore Schary Producer
Charles Schnee Screenwriter
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Westward the Women
1. Chapter 1 [1:01]
2. Chapter 2 [4:27]
3. Chapter 3 [2:11]
4. Chapter 4 [1:57]
5. Chapter 5 [1:34]
6. Chapter 6 [2:44]
7. Chapter 7 [5:13]
8. Chapter 8 [2:44]
9. Chapter 9 [5:09]
10. Chapter 10 [1:48]
11. Chapter 11 [4:13]
12. Chapter 12 [4:29]
13. Chapter 13 [3:24]
14. Chapter 14 [3:33]
15. Chapter 15 [3:34]
16. Chapter 16 [4:46]
17. Chapter 17 [3:38]
18. Chapter 18 [2:49]
19. Chapter 19 [3:31]
20. Chapter 20 [:15]
21. Chapter 21 [3:20]
22. Chapter 22 [2:01]
23. Chapter 23 [2:23]
24. Chapter 24 [2:39]
25. Chapter 25 [3:51]
26. Chapter 26 [2:22]
27. Chapter 27 [2:54]
28. Chapter 28 [3:05]
29. Chapter 29 [3:21]
30. Chapter 30 [3:35]
31. Chapter 31 [2:12]
32. Chapter 32 [3:37]
33. Chapter 33 [2:17]
34. Chapter 34 [2:13]
35. Chapter 35 [4:17]
36. Chapter 36 [2:54]
37. Chapter 37 [3:25]
38. Chapter 38 [1:58]
39. Chapter 39 [:49]

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