7.1/10
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51 user 37 critic

Wagon Master (1950)

Approved | | Adventure, Western | 22 April 1950 (USA)
Two young drifters guide a Mormon wagon train to the San Juan Valley and encounter cutthroats, Indians, geography, and moral challenges on the journey.

Director:

John Ford

Writers:

Frank S. Nugent (as Frank Nugent), Patrick Ford
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Johnson ... Travis Blue
Joanne Dru ... Denver
Harry Carey Jr. ... Sandy
Ward Bond ... Elder Wiggs
Charles Kemper ... Uncle Shiloh Clegg
Alan Mowbray ... Dr. A. Locksley Hall
Jane Darwell ... Sister Ledyard
Ruth Clifford ... Fleuretty Phyffe
Russell Simpson ... Adam Perkins
Kathleen O'Malley ... Prudence Perkins
James Arness ... Floyd Clegg
Francis Ford ... Mr. Peachtree
Fred Libby Fred Libby ... Reese Clegg
Jim Thorpe ... Navajo Indian
Mickey Simpson ... Jesse Clegg
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Storyline

As Mormon settlers head to the promised land at the San Juan river in Utah, they hire horse traders Travis Blue and Sandy as wagon masters. They have to forge a trail across unknown territory and face many hardships along the way. They quickly come across some stranded travelers, a medicine show run by Dr. A. Locksley Hall which includes the attractive Denver. Along the way however, they are also joined by Shiloh Clegg and his murderous clan of robbers and thieves. An encounter with the Navajo leads to an invitation to their camp but after one of the Clegg boys gets a whipping for attacking one of the Navajo women, Uncle Shiloh plans his revenge. It's left to Sandy and Travis to protect the travelers and get them to their destination. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

John Ford's lusty successor to "Fort Apache" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"

Genres:

Adventure | Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Navajo | Spanish

Release Date:

22 April 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Wagonmaster See more »

Filming Locations:

Monument Valley, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$999,370 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Argosy Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Harry Carey, Jr., Joanne Dru's husband, John Ireland, stayed in town during the shooting, and avoided the set, but did organize the company into a performance of "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" in the evening. See more »

Goofs

As the camera pans along the wagon train moving through Moab, Utah, it passes by a boulder, on which you see the shadows of the camera crew and director John Ford. See more »

Quotes

Travis Blue: [after Sandy pushes a gun down the back of his pants] Be careful or you'll blow yer brains out.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Directed by John Ford (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

Come, Come, ye Saints
(uncredited)
Words by William Clayton, 1846
Music by Jesse White, 1844
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Film-as-poetry
8 March 2001 | by amoladSee all my reviews

One of the most poetic narrative films ever made, WAGONMASTER is nonetheless a difficult film to immediately like. I love this movie, but I recommend seeing some of John Ford's other westerns before taking a look at this one. The first time I saw it I was 18 years old and I hadn't seen too many other westerns, and I hated it. I thought it was incredibly boring. I kept waiting for something to happen. It took several years for me to love this picture. First, I fell in love with westerns in general -- the traditions, characters, landscapes, ways of talking, etc -- and that made me realize when I saw WAGONMASTER again that a lot is happening in it after all.

I also was simply a more experienced moviegoer at that point and had learned to appreciate visual storytelling, and to listen to what each image was telling me. WAGONMASTER is a very visual movie by one of the most visual of directors working near the peak of his career.

The movie is a celebration of a way of life, and its subject matter is more emotional and interior than other Ford westerns. Actually, that's not really as accurate as saying that, rather, it has a lot less exterior action than the other westerns. (The other westerns have exterior action AND interior emotion.) It quite beautifully places its Mormon pioneers in the context of nature. There are many shots of animals and children -- not for any surface, narrative purpose, but for illustrating this idea. That is why the movie can be called a poem. It isn't about the surface story (which barely exists) nearly as much as it is about an emotional idea, and it gets this idea across through composition, editing, sound and music. In fact, one could argue that this is a purer form of filmmaking because the images directly express the emotional idea of the film, rather than having to first service a "story."

Give this movie a chance, and allow it to exist on its own terms, not the terms of other westerns or other movies.


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