How the West Was Won

Synopsis: Setting off on a journey to the west in the 1830s, the Prescott family run into a man named Linus, who helps them fight off a pack of thieves. Linus then marries daughter Eve Prescott (Carroll Baker), and 30 years later goes off to fight in the Civil War with their son, with bloody results. Eve's sister, Lily, heads farther west and has adventures with a professional gambler, stretching all the way to San Francisco and into the 1880s.
Genre: Western
Production: Warner Home Video
  Won 3 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
164 min

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,

Franchre 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 mocassined 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.

Pride of Utica now loading!

All aboard for the Pride of Utica!

The Ramsey family, Peter Smith...

...the Skoga family!

All eight of them!

All aboard for the Pride of Utica!

Is the laddie's health

the reason you're heading west?


Only partly.

Mostly our trouble East was rocks.

I had me a farm where some years

I'd raise 100 bushels of rocks to the acre.

Zebulon, you hadn't

ought to lie to the man like that.

Wife, I'm a God-fearing soul,

and I tell the truth as I see it.

Now, I never used a plow.

I'd blast out the furrows with gunpowder.

And then one morning,

I hauled the bucket up out of the well...

...and so help me,

the bucket was full of rocks.


I just stood there right still

trying not to blaspheme.

I said to myself,

"You've got a son that's ailing...'ve got a daughter

what won't take to herself a husband."

- There she sits there, mooning as usual.

- Pa.

You've got another who don't seem

quite right in the head.


Yes, Pa?

Now, I'll remind you, sir.

I'm still standing there

holding a bucket full of rocks...

...and staring into a bleak old age.

So I made me a vow

right then and there. I said:

"If I can find a man with $500

who likes rocks...

...then there's gonna be another fool

owning this farm."

Well, sir, the Lord provided such a man...

...and here I am.

He ain't told you one word of truth,

Mr. Harvey.

We had the best farm in the township.

Yeah, Rockville Township it was.

Stone County.

Oh, it was not.

It was his itching foot

that brought us here.

Heaven knows where we'll end up.

Oh, these are my laddies.

Angus, Brutus and Colin.

- How do you do?

- Hello.

I think they're already acquainted

with your daughters.

- Be they single?

- Aye, single so far.

Well, this Illinois country's beginning

to sound better to me.


Lilith, here. Strike up a little tune

for these handsome lads.

- Oh, I ain't in no mood, Pa.

- Lilith, there's a time for coaxing...

...this ain't the time.

All right.

All right.

A captain bold in Halifax

Who lived in country quarters

Betrayed a maid who hanged herself

One morning in her garters...


Now, you know better

than to sing a song like that.

- What ones do you know?

- We know "Yankee Doodle."

- "Yankee Doodle"?

- Their mother's dead.

They haven't had much learning

in the social graces.

All right, give them

"A Home in the Meadow."

Eve, come on, you too.

That's it.

Come on, join in.

That's it.

Come on.


Loading for the Flying Arrow!

All aboard for the Flying Arrow!

- The Prescott family!

- Here we be. Come on.

Alec Harvey and three sons!

Jeffrey Rose and family!

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.

Lilith. Lilith, listen to this:

"Theirs was a poignant parting

in the forest.

The handsome young backwoodsman

carved two hearts on a tree trunk...

...then from ten paces, hurled a knife

at the junction of the two hearts."

Junction. What's that?

Well, that's where the two hearts meet.

Now, listen:

"His marksmanship was uncanny.

Three times he hurled the knife on target.

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James R. Webb

James R. Webb (October 4, 1909 – September 27, 1974) was an American writer. He won an Academy Award in 1963 for How the West Was Won.Webb was born in Denver, Colorado, and graduated from Stanford University in 1930. During the 1930s he worked both as a screenwriter and a fiction writer for a number of national magazines, including Collier's Weekly, Cosmopolitan and the Saturday Evening Post. Webb was commissioned an army officer in June 1942 and became a personal aide to General Lloyd R. Fredendall who was commander of the II Corps (United States). Webb accompanied Fredendall to England in October 1942 and participated in the invasion of North Africa in November 1942 when the Second Corps captured the city of Oran. The Second Corps then attacked eastward into Tunisia. In February 1943 the German army launched a counterattack at Kasserine Pass which repulsed the Second Corps and nearly broke through the Allied lines. The Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower relieved Fredendall of command in March 1943 and sent him back to the United States where he became deputy commander of the Second United States Army at Memphis, Tennessee. Webb returned to the United States with Fredendall and later served in the European Theater. Webb left the Army after the war and returned to Hollywood, California, where he continued his work as a screenwriter. He died on September 27, 1974, and was buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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