How the West was Won (1962)

 

 

 

 

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

Starring:     Carroll Baker (Eve Prescott), 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 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), Thelma Ritter (Agatha Clegg), Mickey Shaughnessy (Deputy Stover), Russ Tamblyn (Confederate deserter), Spencer Tracy (Narrated By).

mountain men, Erie Canal, the rivers, the plains, the mountains, the Civil War, the railroad and the outlaws

 

Spoiler Warning:

 

Episode 1.

"This land has a name today and is marked on maps.  But the names and the marks and the land all had to be won.  Won from nature and from primitive man.  Five generations ago, a mere 125 years back this land was known only as the West.  Known only to a handful of white men. lonely trappers wandering its vastness in search of beaver.  They were known as mountain men, a new breed.  Men like Jim Bridger, Franchere and Sublette, Linus Rawlings.  More Indian than the Indians in all but blood.  They held to no law but their own, drifted free as the clouds, settled nowhere, kept forever on the move.  Their moccasined feet and unshod horses leaving no trace on the land.  Like the Indians, with whom they were at peace, they wanted nothing beyond what they found, and little of that.  The mountains, the forests, the harsh country were as unchanging to them as the stars and just as unyielding."

"Far behind the mountains, beyond the rolling plains, they had left the people of the East, people who were restless in another way.  The kind who'd look at a mountain and see a watershed, look at a forest and see lumber for houses, look at a stony field and see a farm.  Their faces and their instincts had been turned to the West ever since Plymouth Rock and Jamestown.  The trapper's road was the trail of a wolf or the bend of a canyon.  But for whole families chaffing to follow the sun, there had to be broader ways.  There were no roads into the wilderness, only rivers.  And they flowed in the wrong direction: north or south.  Or else they stopped at the Alleghenies.  Until one day, a new river took source in the mind of a man named DeWitt Clinton.  He conceived of a river that would go west.  And in the way Americans have of acting out their dreams, it came to be.  The Erie Canal left the Hudson above Albany and carried clear across to the Great Lakes.  People who yearned for virgin land and a new life now had a highway to take them.  And they moved along. "  [The canal ran about 363 miles (584 km) from Albany, New York, on the Hudson River to Buffalo, New York, at Lake Erie. It opened in 1825.]

Albany, New York. People are waiting to buy their tickets to travel on the Erie Canal.  The cargo master shouts out:  "All aboard for the Pride of Utica!"  He calls out the names on his list:  the Ramsey family, Peter Smith, the Skoga family!"

Other families wait for their names to be called.  Zebulon Prescott tells his tale of woe to Mr. Harvey.  Mrs. Prescott disagrees with her husband saying they had the best farm in their area.  It's just that Zebulon has a wicked case of wanderlust.  So they are heading out to Illinois. 

Zebulon has his daughter Lilith play a tune on the accordion.  The two family join in the singing.  The cargo master shouts out:  "Loading for the Flying Arrow!"  The Prescott and Harvey families are called forward.  The families get on the boat and head west. 

"But the canal was only the first step toward the promised land.  The next steps were longer and harder.  Those who could raise the fare went by steamboat to the end of the line.  Others found a cheaper way to head for Ohio, Illinois, and the open spaces beyond."

Zebulon is constructing a raft to take them down river.  The two sisters, Lilith and Eva, prepared the food. 

The family launches their raft.  They put their belongings aboard the large raft and start heading upstream, rowing with two very long oars on either side of the raft. 

After a day of rafting, the Prescott and Harvey families set up camp.  And here coming down river is a mountain man in his canoe.  The rafters are very cautious with the stranger and have two rifles at the ready to shoot the man if he's a river pirate.  The mountain man says his name is Linus Rawlings, and he has a canoe full of beaver pelts.  So the travelers calm down and welcome Linus to their camp.  Linus gives Eva one of his beaver belts.  After supper, Eva fixes up a soft bed for Linus.  She is very forward with him and they end up kissing. 

Going upriver Linus stops at a place to get a drink of liquor.  The place, however, is run by a con man.  They push Linus into water-filled hole inside the cave where they have their bar set up.  They then steal his canoe with its load of beaver pelt.  Linus swims out of a hole at the bottom of the water hole and comes up outside the cave.  He sees the con-men heading downriver now. 

The con-men go down river and set up another fake business place, this one selling goods to susceptible travelers heading down stream.  The Prescott and Harvey families stop at the fake business place. 

Meanwhile, Linus has caught up with the con-men.  He floated on a log downstream with him using his hand as paddles.  He swims up on a man putting things away on their raft, pulls him into the water and knives him to death.  Meanwhile, the other armed con-men surround the families and rob them of any money they have.  Linus sneaks up to the shopping, grabs up an ax and throws it into the back of another con-man.  Another thief runs up to shoot Linus, but Linus throws his knife into the man's chest.  This distracts the other con-men and the men of the two families attack them.  One of the Harvey sons is shot by the leader of the thieves.  Then Linus grabs a chair and smashes it right over the face of the leader.  He then grabs a small barrel of gunpowder and throws it on the fire.  The powder explodes throwing some of the men around the area. 

All of the thieves are killed.  Eve wants to pick-up with Linus where she last left-out.  Linus has to tell her straight out that he not husband material, and he won't be any farmer.  Disappointed, Eve walks away from Linus. 

While going down stream, the Prescotts get caught in white-water.  They yell back to the Harveys to beach themselves on the river bank and that's what the Harveys do.  It's too late, however, for the Prescotts.  They ram into many rocks.  Lilith falls overboard.  Father throws off some logs for Lilith to hang onto. She grabs fast to the logs. 

The Prescotts and Harveys are reunited once again.  And they are digging graves for those who were killed by the white water. Mr. and Mrs. Prescott are both dead.  Linus gets the information from some fellow mountain men and he catches up with the two families.  This time Linus hugs and kisses Eve without any coaxing.  He helps the travelers bury the Prescott father and mother.  Later he asks Eve to come to Pittsburgh with him.  She says she is going to build a farm right where they're now at.  She thinks God chose this land for her and her family to build on. 

A steam boat comes up the river and Lilith is happy to see it.   

 

Episode 2.

"The westward course was no smoother than that of true love.  Not only the hard hand of nature was against it, but the impediment of war.  Trouble over land smoldered along the Mexican border.  Not all Americans were for war, including Congressman Abe Lincoln of Illinois. But a war did break out, and in the end vast new territories came into the Union along with their rich Spanish names:  Rio Grande, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, El Paso.  And, most glittering of all, California named after a mythical island of pearls and gold in a 15th-century novel.  Here, in 1848, at Sutter's Mill, a man found something he wasn't even looking for at the bottom of a ditch.  And the cry of his discovery was heard clear across the continent in Boston, New York, Savannah and across the oceans in London, Paris, Berlin.  But nowhere was the clamor of gold heard more eagerly than in St. Louis, the busiest fur-trading center in the world and the noisiest, bawdiest, most uppity town west of New York."

St. Louis Music Hall with songs by Lily Prescott.  Lily performs with the chorus number.  She has attracted quite a few admirers out in the audience.  One of them is a man known as Cleve Van Valen.  He goes back stage to see Lily, but Lily has just learned that she has inherited a lot of gold from one of her admirers.  All she has to do is go to San Francisco to collect the money.  So Lily decides to go west on a wagon train out of St. Louis.  She tries to hook up w-ith an older woman, Agatha Clegg, to have someone to travel with, but Agatha says she needs a man as a traveling  companion.  And suddenly Cleve Van Valen shows up.  He offers his services for pay to Lily, but she just tells him she knows a tinhorn when she sees one.  Cleve leaves.  Agatha gets to thinking that this Lily gal is probably going to draw men to her like flies, so she decides to partner up with her, and maybe she can get one of those men as they flock around Lily.

The wagon train is on the move.  They have gone about a hundred miles.  And that's when Cleve, riding on a mule, catches up with them.  Mr. Morgan, the wagon train master, is going to send Cleve away, but Agatha tells Morgan that she hired this man and he's staying.  She will pay his stake.  Morgan asks Lily if this is true, and Lily backs up Agatha.  So Cleve stays. 

The wagons cross rivers and gets stuck in mud, but Cleve is right there to help get Agatha's wagon over any hurdles along the way. Lily, however, is very wary of Cleve.  He declares his love for Lily, but she is suspicious that he knows about her recent inheritance and wants her gold. 

Mr. Morgan tells Lily that he wants her for his wife.  She turns down his proposal. 

The next day Cheyenne warriors attack the wagon train.  Mr. Morgan decides to make a run for it.  Some of the wagons tip over.  Some of men are killed.  Cleve shots one of the warriors.  Then he saves another man from being killed by a thrown lance.  The Cheyenne satisfy themselves with taking horses and cattle from the wagon train. 

At night Cleve is missing.  Morgan figures he's dead and he tells Lily that he will take some men and give the man a decent Christian burial.  But here comes Cleve on a horse with another man leaning over the horse.  Lily is very happy to see Cleve alive.  He falls off his horse slowly.  Lily runs to help Cleve.  She holds his head in her lap and Now Morgan can see why Lily doesn't want to marry him. 

Cleve and Lily are now a couple.  They reach California and go to check on Lily's property.  They learn that they've taken all the gold out of the stream.  Lily is crestfallen at the news. 

Lily starts performing for the miners in a tent show.  Morgan comes to see her.  He asks her where is her male friend.  Lily says that last she heard was that he was in Hangtown.  And, yes, he went off and left her.  So now Morgan says if she's looking for a rich husband, she's already found one.  He says he has a huge ranch and that will mean lots of money.  Lily still turns him down. 

"Those that struck it rich wanted all the pleasures that money could buy.  And there were plenty to sell to them.  Even the Sacramento riverboats took on luxury goods."  On one of these riverboats is Cleve.  He's playing poker again.  Then he hears Lily singing a song.  He quits the game and goes to watch Lily sing.  When she finishes she tries to avoid Cleve but he gets to her quickly.  He asks her how would she like to team up with a no-good gambler?  Now Lily is happy.  He tells her he has $1,200 in his pockets. 

 

Intermission.

 

Episode 3.

"Young America was not only a union of East and West.  There were North and South too.  And between them, the bonds were weakening.  Mr. Lincoln, now retired from Congress and practicing law, realized that the South would fight to mold the new and uncommitted territories to its own image. Still two years from the presidency, he pleaded that the free West be allowed to remain free and warned of the hazards of a house divided against itself.  But the South, seeing its power and influence wane, struggled against the inevitable in dozens of Western towns.  And slowly, the bitter seed of civil war took root."

The Linus Rawling's house.  A Union soldier, Mr. Peterson, comes out to see Mrs. Rawlings.  He says he is Corporal Peterson now of the Ohio Volunteers and they were thinking that he eldest son Zeb might want to join up.  Linus Rawlings has already in the army and Zeb wants to join up too.  Eve was hoping that Zeb would go out to California to stay with his Aunt Lily and her husband Cleve.  Cleve is trying to get in on the railway business in California and they say there's lost of jobs available of the railroad.  But Zeb wants to go to war, so his mother lets him go.  She cries after Zeb leaves the farm. 

"Evening of April 6th, 1862.  The guns that had roared all day fell silent around a little church called the Shiloh Meeting House.  Many a man had met his God that Sunday, but not in church.  Captain Linus Rawlings is brought  in to be seen by the surgeon, but the surgeon says the Captain is already dead.  "It hd been the bloodiest day of the war on the Western front.  In the morning, it had looked like a Confederate victory, but by nightfall no man cared to use the words 'win' or 'lose'.  After Shiloh, the South never smiled. 

Zeb Rawlings was in the fight this day.  He tells one of the soldiers that war is a lot worse than he expected it to be.  When the soldiers with Zeb says he's from Texas, Zeb realizes he's talking with a Confederate soldier.  The soldiers asks Zeb if he wants to desert from the army and leave all this fighting behind.  Zeb and the Reb take off running. 

Sherman and Grant are at the battlefield.  Zeb saves Grant's life because he blocks the Reb's attempt to kill Grant with his pistol.  Zeb ends up bayoneting the Reb. 

The next day the battle begins anew.  Following the end of the Civil War, Zeb returns to the farm.  As he approaches the farm, he see two new graves in their cemetery.  He reads the names of Linus and Eve Rawlings.  He's very upset at the news.  His brother sees him out by the cemetery and shouts out to him.  It's a tough homecoming for Zeb and he doesn't stay long.  He hasn't muster out of the army and he thinks of joining the cavalry and fighting the Indians.  He's heading west. 

 

Episode 4. 

"Even while North and South were being torn apart East and West had been drawn together by the Pony Express, the most daring mail route in history.  Eighty riders were in the saddle at all times, night and day, in all weather.  Half of them riding east, half riding west between Missouri and Sacramento carrying mail across country in days instead of months.  Unarmed, they rode to save weight.  Five dollars a letter, the mail cost, and on thin paper too.  It was courage, skill and speed against hostile Indians, bandits, hell and occasional high water.  Even as they rode, men were already building a faster message carrier across the country:  the Overland Telegraph.  And the Indians found a new amusement listening to the level tune of the singing wires.  But far less amusing to the Indians was the coming of the steel roadway of the iron horse.  The surveyors' route lay through immense natural barriers, the Rocky Mountains and the equally discouraging High Sierras.  But range upon range could never stop the titanic contest between two corporate giants racing to put down the greatest mileage of track before they met.  The Central Pacific eastward from Sacramento through the Sierras.  And the Union Pacific, forging westward across the plains with the Rockies still to come.  The prize in the race was free land, vast parcels for every mile of track laid.   Land that would one day be worth millions."

A scout, named Jethro Stuart, brings in the bodies of two dead men.  They were obviously killed by the Indians, because they still have arrows stuck in their backs.  The manager, Mr. King, gets mad at Jethro for bringing the bodies where the workers could see them.  The men stopped working to look at the bodies. 

The manager goes into town and speaks with Cavalry Officer Zeb Rawlings, saying the army is not protecting the railroads enough.  He wants to know if Rawlings has found out anything about the two dead railway workers.  Rawlings says he tracked the Arapaho and talked to their chief.  He says the two dead men were well beyond the railway border and were drunk and chasing squaws.  King says Rawlings is supposed to fight the Indians, not agree with them.  Rawlings says he has only 20 men as compared to 200 Arapaho.  King says he just might write a letter of complaint to the colonel.  Rawlings replies that he already report the incident and the colonel agrees with his actions. 

Jethro is out hunting buffalo.  A group of Arapaho show up and have a heated conversation with the hunter. 

Someone on top of a mountain is sending signals using flashing mirrors down to the cavalry in the wide valley.  Rawlings wants to know what's up?  Jethro comes slowly riding up saying that the Arapaho are now claiming that the railroad has broken theit agreement with them by running their tracks right through the main part of their traditional hunting grounds. 

Rawlings goes to speak with King, who demands that the army negotiate a new treaty making it okay for the railroad to go through the Arapaho hunting grounds. 

In the town saloon Jethro speaks with Rawlings.  He says he knew Zeb's father, Linus Rawlings.  He and Linus used to trap beaver up along the Waunakee.  Zeb uses the opportunity to ask Jethro to come with him to speak with the Arapaho chief.  The two men get their new treaty, but Jethro warns Zeb:  "Your treaty's gonna get broke and I don't wanna be around to see it happen.  Look me up when you get your bellyful."  He's going up into the mountains where they ain't any crowds around yet. 

"By now, the Central Pacific had broken through the wall of the high Sierras and was straining eastward across the flatlands of Nevada.  While the Union Pacific, thanks to its long peace with the Indians, was able to keep up pressure just as avidly in the opposite direction.  The competition was exciting, but also costly and both companies were itching to earn money from tracks already laid."  They started taking on passengers wishing to go farther east or west. 

Zeb's Indian scouts quit working with the cavalry saying that the white man is a liar.  Zeb goes to speak to King.  He reminds King that he said that the buffalo hunters and the towns people wouldn't be coming out here at least for their own life times.   He adds:  "And there they are.  The buffalo slaughterers and the settlers."  Zeb says he won't be part of the taking of Arapaho land.  In fact, Zeb says he's resigning from the army.   He agrees with King that nothing's going to stop and nothing will help the Arapaho.  "But nothing's gonna stop them."

Out of the army, Zeb rides to speak with the Arapaho chief, but a warrior fires a rifle at Zeb and the ex-army officer has to skedaddle.  The Arapaho are coming to attack the railway.  Zeb rides backs as fast as he can to warn King. 

The Arapaho stampede the buffalo right through the railway work area.  They do a lot of damage to the tents, wagons and storage areas.  Then the Arapaho leave.  King tells Zeb that he told them there would be no war.  Zeb warns him that the Arapaho will be back.    He then takes off again. 

Zeb finds Jethro up in the mountains.  He has a meal and a sleep at Jethro's place, but in the morning he moves on.

 

Episode 5. 

"The coming of railroads brought changes in the land through which they passed.  Now immense herds of cattle were driven hundreds of miles to meet the lines bound for markets in the East. Fences went up, cattle trails were barred and a long and bloody wrangle began between cattlemen and homesteaders.. The law was in the hands of whoever could shoot fast and straight, except where there was somebody determined to stand for law.   Others might look on sheep and a shepherd as a pastoral scene.  Not the cattleman.  To him, sheep destroyed grass, and grass came dear.  And if a man's life where held cheaper than grass, it was considered a casualty of war, not a crime.  And, in all this, the man with the star was only one against many.  But time was running out for the reckless ones, the desperadoes, the gallop-and-gunshot boys as more and more citizens demanded respect for the law and showed themselves ready to fight to uphold it.  And the raw new towns that sprung up in the West began to dream of becoming as refined as that one-time hooligan city by the Golden Gate.  San Francisco was now respectable.  So sophisticated, in fact, it even had mansions up for auction."

Zeb becomes a lawman in a western town, while Mr. Cleve Van Valen passes away.  His wife Lily sells off her home and its possessions at an auction in San Francisco.  She tells people that she is going to take up living on her ranch in Arizona, the one that is worn down so much.  She says she has a nephew whose a lawman in Arizona and she's going to ask him to manage the farm for her. 

Zeb, his wife, two boys and a girl are heading out for Aunt Lily's ranch.  When they reach the town of Gold City Junction, the settle in and then wait at the train depot of the arrival of Aunt Lilith.  While he's waiting, he takes notices of some mean looking hombres.  The train arrives and Zeb says hello to his aunt and then introduces her to his wife, Joyce, and the children.  Their little girl is named Eve. 

Also arriving on the train is a bad man known as Charlie Gant.  Zeb stares at him.  So Charlie goes over to see Zeb.  He says some words in praise of the beauty of Mrs. Rawlings and of the day, and then returns to his desperadoes.  Later Zeb reports that Gant's in town.  The sheriff, Lou, says there's nothing they can do to stop Gant from going wherever he pleases in the territory.  Zeb killed Gant's brother.  As a friend, Lou asks Zeb to leave the town. 

Gant stops by to see Zeb, saying that he heard the Zeb was bad mouthing him to the sheriff.  He asks if Zeb wants a confrontation between the two of them?  Zeb says he's not going to fight Gant.  Gant says he might be paying the Rawlings' family a visit soon.

Sheriff Lou tells Zeb that Gant complained to him that Zeb wanted to have a confrontation with him.  Zeb asks if the sheriff believed Gant?  It seems that the sheriff does believe Gant somewhat, because he is warning Zeb not to force a fight between him and Gant. 

Zeb is pretty sure that Gant and his gang are going to rob the train of the gold on it.  He gets his pistol and rifle ready for action.  Lou comes by and tells Zeb that he will take the pistol and rifle from Zeb.  Zeb says he can't let the sheriff do that.  He says he needs Lou's support because he is going to catch Gant red-handed robbing the train. 

Rawlings is on the train with Lou and his deputy.  Gant has built a blockade on the track to stop the train, but Zeb gives the order for the locomotive engineer to smash right through the obstacle.  The train goes right through the barricade.  The bandits under Gant and start racing their horses after the train.  One of the gang's horse falls, taking him out of the chase.  The gang members now all get onto the caboose of the train.  Zeb evacuates the car holding the passengers telling them to go forward toward the locomotive.  When the gang opens up the passenger car, the three lawmen open fire on them.  One bandit hits the floor after being shot, while another wounded bandit is still able to stand.  He says:  "It's Rawlings."  The other bandits retreat.  One is shot off the train.  Meanwhile, Gant is working his way along underneath the lumber-carrying car.  Two more bandits are hit and fall of the train.  That leaves just Gant and two other bandits.  One of the other bandit falls off the train. 

The lumber car gets separated from the rest of the train.  That leaves just Gant and one bandit facing off with Rawlings, the bandits on one side and Rawlings on the opposite end of the lumber car, going backwards.  Lou sees the problems and sends his deputy up front to get the engineer to back up the train.  Lou shoots the last of the gang members, leaving only their leader Gant behind.  

The lumber falls completely off the flat bed car.  That leaves Rawlings exposed to Gant's fire from behind parts of a large engine.  Lou shoots the ropes holding the engine down and the engine falls off its flat bed car.  Now Gant and Lou each have a clear line for fire.  Lou shoots Gant two or three times.  There's a break in the railway track.  The flat bed car that Gant is on flies off the tracks and Gant is thrown on the desert ground motionless.  Next Lou's flat bed car in thrown off the tracks.  Lou goes over to check on Gant. 

The next morning, the Rawlings' extended family all get on their wagon and set off for the Rawlings' home.  Of course, Aunt Lily is going with them. 

"The West that was won by its pioneers settlers, adventurers is long gone now.  Yet it is theirs forever.  For they left tracks in history that will never be eroded by wind or rain, never plowed under by tractors, never buried in the compost of events.    Out of the hard simplicity of their lives, out of their vitality, their hopes and their sorrows, grew legends of courage and pride to inspire their children and their children's children.  From soil enriched by their blood, out of their fever to explore and build, came lakes where once were burning deserts, came the goods of the earth, mines and wheat fields, orchards and great lumber mills, all the sinews of a growing country.  Out of their rude settlements, their trading posts, came cities to rank among the great ones of the world.  All the heritage of a people free to dream, free to act, free to mold their own destiny."

 

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)