How the West Was Won [1962]

Genre: Western
After they first worked together on the 1966 film This Property Is Condemned, director Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford continued their long-lasting collaboration with Jeremiah Johnson, a 1972 drama set during the mid-1800s, about one man's rugged effort to shed the burden of civilization and learn to survive in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Will Geer is perfectly cast as the seasoned trapper who teaches Jeremiah Johnson (Redford) how to survive against harsh winters, close encounters with grizzly bears, and hostile Crow Indians. In the course of his adventure, Johnson marries the daughter of a Flathead Indian chief, forms a makeshift family, and ultimately assumes a mythic place in Rocky Mountain folklore. Shot entirely on location in Utah, the film boasts an abundance of breathtaking widescreen scenery, and the story (despite a PG rating) doesn't flinch from the brutality of the wilderness. --Jeff Shannon The first feature film to be photographed and projected in the panoramic three-camera Cinerama process, the epic Western How the West Was Won is almost as expansive as the West itself, chronicling a pioneering family's triumphs and tragedies in numerous episodes spanning three generations and a half century of westward movement. Divided into five segments directed by veteran Hollywood filmmakers Henry Hathaway, George Marshall, and the legendary John Ford (and including uncredited sequences directed by Richard Thorpe), the film was one of the most ambitious ever made by the venerable MGM studio. Its stellar cast reads like a virtual who's who of Hollywood's biggest stars. Debbie Reynolds plays a sturdy survivor of many pioneering dangers, and the eventual widow of a gambler (Gregory Peck), who is later reunited with her nephew (George Peppard), a Civil War veteran and cavalryman who heads for San Francisco as the transcontinental railroad is being built. Many more characters and stories are woven throughout this epic film, which is dramatically uneven but totally engrossing with its stunning vistas and countless outdoor locations in Illinois, Kentucky, South Dakota, Monument Valley in Arizona, California, Colorado, and elsewhere. --Jeff Shannon

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