Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Next Stop Mainstream City
How the West Was Won (1963, Warners, $20.98, 3 discs, 162 minutes)Made for a then huge 15 million, divided into 5 segments, helmed by 3 directors (Henry Hathaway, George Marshall, and the estimable John Ford) peopled by a passel of big names (James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark, Gregory Peck) and a too cool array of character names (Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter, Harry Morgan, Robert Preston, Karl Malden, Carrol Baker, Walter Brennan) this 1963 epic western was also filmed with a 3 lens Cinerama camera and originally had to be projected by 3 projectors running simultaneously. Somehow I saw this with my parents and brother in the family station wagon at the Westerly, RI Drive-In the summer of, I’m guessing ’64, and I, a fanatic western bluff, was blown away by its splendor while being a little annoyed by its lack of traditional mano a’ mano gunfire. Years later its vistas still remain purty spectacular and Stewart and Reynolds acquit themselves decently while most of the rest of the featured acting is wooden (George Peppard Alert!) and the narrative pure swiss cheese with even Ford’s sequence (“The Civil War”) doesn’t pack the director’s typical majesty or sweep. As mainstream Hollywood studio product goes this remains more of a project than a fully rounded movie yet it goes down good with the popcorn.