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The Covered Wagon

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

Impressive location work, though as with de Mille’s Joan, some of the train musters and river crossings aren’t cut (or thought) as dynamically or coherently as later excursions, which build on this founding expression, would be; one can see how a lot of movies sprang from right here, not only in the crossing the plains plot, but in the particularization of the epic general struggle through the use of representative types–the very charming if overly made up hero, the fairly wooden heroine, the effectively hateful rival/villain (Allan Hale, sr.), the purely melodramatic triangulation of their interaction (Legacy!), the salamanderish parents (supportive or oppositional, as the story requires), the pretty peripheral Indians which nevertheless, and very interestingly, are shown as aggressive because to be otherwise means obliteration, and which commit at least one of their atrocities in Book of Mormon fashion (Cruze?) because of the sins of a wicked white, the later to be obligatory circling savages attack, and most pleasingly, the use of outsized brawling drinking Ford-ing (Francis?) buddies, here delightfully elaborated in the Jim Bridger and that other guy characters–there’s also the nod to the Mormons (an hour’s missing from this version; is it a Mormon section?), made more interesting by the idealizing of the wagon train’s Missouri component, the temptation of California’s gold and the more fulfilling agricultural alternative, incredibly smoky fires, a good gag about the hero’s vindication only released by Bridger getting drunk, with some nice comic suspense deriving, and a general blithe affirmation, for all the hardships/because of all the hardships, that the settling of the west is unambiguously an act of providence and destiny