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Plot Summary
The history of Western expansion in the United States as told by the story of one pioneer family's history. Zebulon Prescott takes his family from New York, heading West in the early 1800s. His children and grandchildren eventually reach the Western shore after years of hardship, war, and struggle.
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.
Summary written by scgary66

Directed by
John Ford     (segment "The Civil War")
Henry Hathaway     (segments "The Rivers", "The Plains" and "The Outlaws")
George Marshall     (segment "The Railroad")
Richard Thorpe     (uncredited) (transitional historical sequences)

Full Cast
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
David Brian    .... Lilith's attorney
Andy Devine    .... Cpl. Peterson
Raymond Massey    .... Abraham Lincoln
Agnes Moorehead    .... Rebecca Prescott
Harry Morgan    .... Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (as Henry 'Harry' Morgan)
Thelma Ritter    .... Agatha Clegg
Mickey Shaughnessy    .... Deputy Stover
Russ Tamblyn    .... Confederate deserter
Spencer Tracy    .... Narrator (voice)
Rodolfo Acosta    .... Gant gang member (uncredited)
Mark Allen    .... Colin Harvey (uncredited)
Beulah Archuletta    .... Indian woman (uncredited)
Robert Banas    .... Dance Hall Dancer (uncredited)
Willis Bouchey    .... Surgeon (uncredited)
Charlie Briggs    .... Flying Arrow Barker (uncredited)
Paul Bryar    .... Auctioneer's assistant (uncredited)
Walter Burke    .... Wagon poker player (uncredited)
Polly Burson    .... Stock player (uncredited)
Kim Charney    .... Sam Prescott (uncredited)
Ken Curtis    .... Cpl. Ben (uncredited)
John Damler    .... Lawyer (uncredited)
Christopher Dark    .... Poker player with Cleve (uncredited)
Kem Dibbs    .... Blacksmith (uncredited)
Craig Duncan    .... James Marshall (uncredited)
Ben Black Elk Sr.    .... Arapajo chief (uncredited)
Jay C. Flippen    .... Huggins (uncredited)
Sol Gorss    .... River pirate (uncredited)
Tom Greenway    .... (uncredited)
James Griffith    .... Poker player with Cleve (uncredited)
Barry Harvey    .... Angus Harvey (uncredited)
William Henry    .... Staff officer (uncredited)
Jerry Holmes    .... Railroad clerk (uncredited)
Roy Jenson    .... Henchman (uncredited)
Claude Johnson    .... Jeremiah Rawlings (uncredited)
Jack Lambert    .... Gant henchman (uncredited)
John Larch    .... Grimes (uncredited)
Stanley Livingston    .... Prescott Rawlings (uncredited)


J. Edward McKinley    .... Auctioneer (uncredited)
Harry Monty    .... (uncredited)
Bob Morgan    .... Member of train robbery gang (uncredited)
Boyd 'Red' Morgan    .... (uncredited)
Robert Nash    .... Lawyer (uncredited)
Cliff Osmond    .... Bartender (uncredited)
Tudor Owen    .... Parson Alec Harvey (uncredited)
Harvey Parry    .... Henchman (uncredited)
Jack Pennick    .... Cpl. Murphy (uncredited)
Gil Perkins    .... Henchman (uncredited)
Red Perkins    .... Union soldier (uncredited)
Buddy Red Bow    .... Native Man (uncredited)
Walter Reed    .... (uncredited)
Chuck Roberson    .... Officer (uncredited)
Victor Romito    .... Henchman (uncredited)
Jamie Ross    .... Bruce Harvey (uncredited)
Gene Roth    .... Riverboat poker player (uncredited)
Bryan Russell    .... Zeke Prescott (uncredited)
Danny Sands    .... Trapeze man (uncredited)
Joe Sawyer    .... Riverboat officer (uncredited)
Jeffrey Sayre    .... Auction spectator (uncredited)
Harry Dean Stanton    .... Gant henchman (uncredited)
Clinton Sundberg    .... Hylan Seabury (uncredited)
Karl Swenson    .... Train conductor (uncredited)
Ken Terrell    .... River pirate (uncredited)
Lee Van Cleef    .... River pirate (uncredited)
William Wellman Jr.    .... Officer #2 (uncredited)
Harry Wilson    .... Cattleman at barricade (uncredited)
Carleton Young    .... Poker player with Cleve (uncredited)

Writing credits (in alphabetical order)
John Gay     uncredited
James R. Webb   

Produced by
Bernard Smith    .... producer

William H. Daniels     (director of photography)
Milton R. Krasner     (director of photography) (as Milton Krasner)
Charles Lang     (director of photography) (as Charles Lang Jr.)
Joseph LaShelle     (director of photography)

Original Music by
Ken Darby     (associate)
Alfred Newman     (also title song) (song title uncredited)

Non-Original Music
Thomas Hastings     (song "Rock of Ages") (uncredited)
Louis Lambert     (song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home") (uncredited)

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

George Marshall Jr.    .... assistant director
William McGarry    .... assistant director
Robert Saunders    .... assistant director
William Shanks    .... assistant director
Wingate Smith    .... assistant director
Richard Talmadge    .... second unit director (uncredited)


May Boss    .... stunts (uncredited)
Polly Burson    .... stunts (uncredited)
Everett Creach    .... stunts (uncredited)
John Epper    .... stunts (uncredited)
Richard Farnsworth    .... stunts (uncredited)
Sol Gorss    .... stunts (uncredited)
Fred Graham    .... stunts (uncredited)
Johnny Hagner    .... stunts (uncredited)
Donna Hall    .... stunt double: Debbie Reynolds (uncredited)
Chuck Hayward    .... stunts (uncredited)
Charles Horvath    .... stunts (uncredited)
Loren Janes    .... stunt double: Debbie Reynolds (uncredited)
Loren Janes    .... stunts (uncredited)
Roy Jenson    .... stunts (uncredited)
Leroy Johnson    .... stunts (uncredited)
Eddie Juaregui    .... stunts (uncredited)
Cliff Lyons    .... stunts (uncredited)
Ted Mapes    .... stunts (uncredited)
Troy Melton    .... stunts (uncredited)
Louise Montana    .... stunts (uncredited)
Bob Morgan    .... stunts (uncredited)
Boyd 'Red' Morgan    .... stunts (uncredited)
Hal Needham    .... stunts (uncredited)
Harvey Parry    .... stunts (uncredited)
Gil Perkins    .... stunts (uncredited)
Carl Pitti    .... stunts (uncredited)
Rusty Richards    .... stunts (uncredited)
Chuck Roberson    .... stunts (uncredited)
Victor Romito    .... stunts (uncredited)
Ronnie Rondell Jr.    .... stunts (uncredited)
Danny Sands    .... stunts (uncredited)
Dean Smith    .... stunts (uncredited)
Richard Talmadge    .... stunt coordinator (uncredited)
Bob Terhune    .... stunts (uncredited)
Ken Terrell    .... stunts (uncredited)
Autry Ward    .... stunts (uncredited)
Troy Ward    .... stunts (uncredited)
Jack Williams    .... stunts (uncredited)
Henry Wills    .... stunts (uncredited)
Jack Young    .... stunts (uncredited)
Joe Yrigoyen    .... stunts (uncredited)

Other crew
Sammy Cahn    .... lyricist: "Home in the Meadow" (song title uncredited)
Ken Darby    .... lyricist: title song
Robert Emmett Dolan    .... music adaptor: "Home in the Meadow"
Robert Emmett Dolan    .... music coordinator: "Home in the Meadow"
Dave Guard    .... singer: "The Erie Canal"


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.

During the Indian attack that was filmed in Lone Pine, California, a Conestoga Wagon tumbles down a hill. In order to create the illusion of the audience being inside of a tumbling wagon, a track was built down the slope of a small hill and the top portion of a Conestoga Wagon, without the wheels, was affixed onto a flatbed along with a mechanism that would turn the wagon over and over as the flatbed was guided down the hill. The Cinerama camera, in turn, was attached to one end of the flatbed so that it could shoot directly through the turning wagon as the stuntmen, including Loren Janes, were tumbled around the insides of the wagon along with boxes, barrels, blankets and other cargo. It took more than two days to prepare the scene and several takes to complete. In the final cut, this scene lasts no more than five seconds on the screen.

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. She portrayed young Julie Stuart, the daughter of Henry Fonda's character, Jethro Stuart. After Lang's scenes were deleted from the film, Julie was later portrayed by Carolyn Jones.

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. According to Ms. Reynolds, in an interview for the documentary Cinerama Adventure (2002), her character of Lilith was originally supposed to have drowned in the river. However, it was decided that Lilith would best tie the generations of Prescotts together, so, she remained in the story to become an elderly lady in the film's conclusion.

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.
Link this trivia
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.

Gary Cooper had been offered the role of Linus Rawlings, but died before filming began. James Stewart then accepted the part despite feeling miscast.

Russ Tamblyn and Bryan Russell also appear on the other 1962 Cinerama film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962).

James Stewart offered to play his own dead body in the Civil War story but was refused by John Ford who instead used a double who bore no resemblance to Stewart. When George Peppard imitates Stewart's voice during the grizzly bear reminiscence story he was reprimanded by Ford but yelled back that he wanted the audience to remember that Stewart played his father.

Spencer Tracy was only able to narrate the film rather than play a part due to his health problems.

John Wayne had intended to play a character in the part directed by Henry Hathaway, but John Ford insisted he appear in the Civil War sequence.

As part of their collaboration with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Cinerama agreed to modify their system by reducing the frame rate to 24 frames per second (the industry standard) so that this film would have an exhibition life after its Cinerama engagements.

Although James Stewart's character was only supposed to be 28 in the movie, Stewart was actually nearly 54 at the time of filming.

John Wayne shot the key cameo of Gen.Sherman in five days.

Of the five segments, Henry Hathaway directed "The Rivers", "The Plains" and "The Outlaws", John Ford directed "The Civil War" and George Marshall did "The Railroad". Some uncredited work was done by Richard Thorpe.

Raymond Massey made a career out of portraying Abraham Lincoln, having played it on stage, on TV ("The Day Lincoln Was Shot") and on film (Spirit of the People (1940)). This film marks the final time he played the President.

John Ford complained that the sheer breadth of the Cinerama cameras meant that he had to dress his sets to a much wider degree than usual.

This would later inspire an ABC TV series of the same name that ran for a total of 11 episodes in 1979.

The top grossing film of 1962.

Among the stars who were approached to take part in the film but did not were Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Cagney, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, 'Shirley Maclaine' and Kim Novak.

The opening pan across the Rockies is actually an out-take from This Is Cinerama (1952). The same holds true for the closing aerial sweep.

Spencer Tracy provides the narration. Bing Crosby was originally slated to provide this.

A lot of the actors were very intimidated by the 3 lens Cinerama camera and felt they had to elevate their performance to something approaching the way one performs on the theatrical stage as opposed to the more subtle style of acting normally required in front of a camera. This is why a lot of the actors in the film come across as being quite over-the-top.

Debbie Reynolds and Carroll Baker became very good friends whilst making the film.

Henry Hathaway was famous for his salty language. Debbie Reynolds instigated a swear jar on the set in an effort to curb him of his excesses - every time he swore, she would have to put some coins into the jar. Reynolds ended up losing quite a bit of money.

The river-rafting sequence was filmed over a period of seven days.

Cinerama was so expansive, it couldn't really be configured for close-ups. The nearest it could manage was to place a key actor in the central frame and try to get in as close as possible. This proved to be very intimidating for a lot of actors as the camera (an enormous piece of apparatus under a black hood with 3 lenses) would be literally in their face - 18 inches away, to be precise.

The sequence where the Indians attack the wagon train took 6 weeks to film.

The riverboat is the same one used in Raintree County (1957).

An intermission was required to allow the projectionists enough time to re-thread the three projectors and synchronize the sound.

All four cinematographers were Oscar-winners.

John Ford's habit was to always sit beside the camera while it was filming so he could watch the action intently. Unfortunately because of the triple lens on the Cinerama camera, he kept appearing in shot until director of photography Joseph LaShelle hit on the idea of building a rig that allowed Ford to sit above the camera.

The film stock was so expensive that all the actors were asked to know their lines and their marks as thoroughly as possible to cut down on the number of takes.

The film was inspired by a factual series on the settling of the West of the same name that had appeared in LIFE magazine and which had been followed by a identically titled 2-LP set of western songs sung mostly by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Many of the songs on the record album were also used in the film soundtrack, like "Bound for the Promised Land" and "What Was Your Name in the States?"

* Plot holes: There is no explanation of why Sheriff Ramsey is fine in one scene and wearing a bandage on his forehead in the next, immediately following. (there was a deleted or unfilmed scene where Zeb knocked Ramsey out when the Sheriff tried to stop him from going after the train robbers).

* Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): While she is refusing Morgan's proposal, Lilith's shoulder strap is on/off her shoulder between shots.

* Revealing mistakes: Tire tracks in the scene where the Indians attack the wagon train.

* Continuity: Linus Rawlings ('Jimmy Stewart') is depicted as having gray hair. The body of the man they identify as Linus Rawlings to the Civil War surgeon has red hair.

* Continuity: When Roger Morgan is testing a new whip, he has it in his left hand and then it magically appears in his right hand.

* Factual errors: When the wagon train on its way to California is attacked by Indians, it is in a mountainous area, yet the Indians are identified as Cheyenne. The Cheyenne tribe was a Great Plains tribe, and would not have been that far west.

* Plot holes: When Linus meets the Prescott family he says he is going up stream to sell is beaver pelts. The Prescott family is going down stream. The pirates are down stream from the Prescott camp. Linus should have passed the pirates when he came upstream. He couldn't happen upon the pirates when he left the Prescott camp.

* Revealing mistakes: The scene in which Linus Rawlings (James Stewart) arrives to the Prescott camp it is supposedly at night. However, the illumination and environment shows as if it was daylight.

* Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): (At 53:31) The sign for the California wagon train lists Roger Ward as wagonmaster, but the wagonmaster, played by Robert Preston, is actually named Roger Morgan.

Filming Locations
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California, USA
(attack by Indians)
Badlands National Park, Interior, South Dakota, USA
Battery Rock, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois, USA
Bent's Old Fort National Monument - 35110 Highway 194 East, La Junta, Colorado, USA
Bishop, California, USA
Black Hills, South Dakota, USA
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Arizona, USA
Cave-In-Rock State Park - 1 New State Park Road, Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, USA
Cedar Mountain, Utah, USA
Corriganville, Ray Corrigan Ranch, Simi Valley, California, USA
Cumberland River, Kentucky, USA
Custer State Park - 13329 U.S. Highway 16A, Custer, South Dakota, USA
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, Durango, Colorado, USA
Duck Creek Village, Duck Creek, Kanab, Utah, USA
Eugene, Oregon, USA
Grants Pass, Oregon, USA
High Sierra Mountains, California, USA
Inyo National Forest - 351 Pacu Lane, Bishop, California, USA
Lone Pine Campground, Lone Pine, California, USA
Montrose, Colorado, USA
Monument Valley, Utah, USA
Oatman, Arizona, USA
Ohio River, Kentucky, USA
Paducah, Kentucky, USA
Perkinsville, Arizona, USA
Pinnacles National Monument, Soledad, California, USA
Rapid City, South Dakota, USA
Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA
San Francisco, California, USA
Scotia, California, USA
Silverton, Colorado, USA
Simi, California, USA
Superior, Arizona, USA
Tonto National Forest - 2324 East McDowell Road, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Tucson, Arizona, USA
Uncompahgre National Forest - 2250 Highway 50, Delta, Colorado, USA
Verde River railroad bridge, Perkinsville, Arizona, USA
Whitney Portal Road, Lone Pine Creek Canyon, Lone Pine, California, USA





Stanley Livingston - How The West Was Won