The story is about the hardships and twist of three generations of a family in varies eras, describing the history of American West through the family’s half a century migration from the early 19th century to the 1880s. They set out from New York, endured the Civil War, the Gold Rush, and encountered with Indians and Southwestern exiles. After experienced all kinds of hardships, they eventually reached the West, where they joined other pioneers to build railroads on the plains, and introduced law and justice to the border.
The history of the West
The Western film is a very special genre. The western film relies on a particular geographic location on the map, and give rise to a genre dedicated to that location. So how did the West come to be? It’s a long story. As early as 1607, a group of more than 100 colonists from England established a small town on the other side of the ocean, which became the first colony in North America. Over the next hundred years, many colonists arrived from Europe, and gradually expanding the area. No longer satisfied with this edge of the continent, the colonists began trying to move towards another edge in search of more land, gold, and wealth. In the process of expanding, the conflicts between western colonists and native American Indians were continuous, and the cultures clash between the them increasingly escalated. It was during this process, the American West gradually revealed its true intention. The westward movement, which began at the end of the 18th century, was an important change in the migration and development of residents from the eastern part of the United States to the west region. The movement changed the country and played a crucial role in the economic development of the United States.
The westward movement is also a history of the blood and tears of the commoners. A History of The West tells the story of a westbound Prescott family, heading west is the story of the family’s three generations of which have been on the move for nearly half a century with as many ups and downs, no less twist than any historical novel. This 164-minutes-film is divided into five parts: ” The Torrent, The Plains, the Civil War, The Railroad and The Outlaw. Henry Hathaway shot three of these parts, while The Civil War was directed by John Ford and The Railroad was directed by George Marshall. Several directors co-produced a film of varying quality, which makes it special.
People in the West
At the beginning of the film, the Prescott family migrates to the west, the father says that because the manor is full of rocks and there is no land to grow on, but the journey to the west is not easy. The family had to make their own rafts to travel with after travelling by steamboat. The father had two daughters, Eve and Lilith. Eve has been reluctant about going west, and she had an upper-class dream, “I want silk dress, fine wagons, and men who smell good, and I want to go back east, not west!” But it was a dream come true. Along the way, Eve meets Linus, an adventurer from the upper class, whose adventures captivate Eve. After a long separation, the two of them are finally able to be together. But her parents are killed in the rapids.
Eve’s sister, Lilith, has also found her love. Back to East, She worked as a cabaret performer in the nightclubs, and one day she received a will from a Brooks, leaving her a gold-rich farm in California. Lilith was in high spirits and set off westward when two men had a crush on her. One is the unassuming Mr. Morgan and the other is the suave Mr. Cleve. Mr. Morgan was genuinely in love with Lilith, while Mr. Cleve was after the golden farm that would be Lilith in the future, hoping to get some money from it. Both men have expressed love to Lilith, but Liz loved Mr. Cleve more. After trekking to California, Lilith realizes that the farm has already been used to pay off Brooks’s debts, and the efforts was did for nothing and then then Mr. Cleve disappeared. Mr. Morgan didn’t left Lilith, but she still rejected him. At this point, we all feel sorry for Morgan and hate Lilith ‘s stubbornness. But then the film took a sudden that Mr. Cleve had changed completely. It turned out that he’s won a fortune through gambling, and he returned to Liz, and the two of them co-own the Steamship Company and are happily together. Isn’t that a little unexpected? Have we all wronged Mr. Cleve? Seems like Mr. Peck doesn’t usually play negative characters, huh?
The next three stories mainly focus on Eve’s son, Zeb. When the Civil War broke out, the young and energetic Zeb decided to go to the front line. But the brutality of the war along with the intrigue between people on the battlefield have instantly dampened his patriotism and made him lost fait towards the war. When he returned home after the war, he found that his mother, Eve, had passed away. Zeb ‘s father, Linus, had once been an explorer, and perhaps why Zeb wants to travel as his father because the sense of adventure runs in his blood, and Zeb had inherited that spirit . He joined a railroad company that was going to put rail tracks out west to make more profits from them. However, the Indians didn’t agree, fearing that the railroad would bring destructive plundering to their own tribe. With this in mind, Zeb assured the Indians that the railroad would not violate their interests once it was completed, and then an agreement was reached. As a result, after the railroad was built, many buffalo hunters came west and began hunting the Indians’ buffalo. The failure of railroad company to keep its word ended up with devastating consequences: the Indians released a great number of buffalos and rode them all under foot. This was the embodiment of the contradiction between modern technology and aboriginal culture during the westward movement. The final story of the film is the contest between Zeb, a mounted policeman, and Charlie Gant, a fugitive who Zeb tried to apprehend. This is similar to the movie High Noon, both aim to preserve the inviolability of the law and to show that in peacetime, the rule of law is an essential part of the form of the society. When an overhead shot of an American urban flyover appears at the end of the film, a sense of history comes into play. Countless people like the Prescott family, after a difficult baptism of life and death to prosper the United States with high-rise buildings. The blood and sweat of all the pioneers are set on this concrete highway.
IMDB link : https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056085/