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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Kirk Douglas plays former U.S. Senator William Tadlock who ramrods a wagon train of Missouri pioneers to a new start in Oregon. Dick Summeres(Robert Mitchum)is goaded into scouting for the trek. He seemed to be the best choice. He did find mountains, water and the Grand Canyon; but then Indians did find the wagon train. A little bit of firewater helps the travelers gain free passage from the Indians. Drought and death does not deter the westward caravan. The heavy hitting lineup of stars include: Richard Widmark, Jack Elam, Lola Albright, Stubby Kaye, Harry Carey Jr. and "introduces" Sally Field as a sagebrush tart. Beautiful scenery throughout. Andrew V. McLaglen directs this movie that just seems to plod along and falls far from the status of a genuine classic. A great way to spend a long afternoon.
  • This western is very unusual in that it features three top leading men--Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark. Now you'd think with all this high-octane masculinity and acting that this would be a terrific film, well, you'd be wrong. While it isn't a bad film, it does suffer from a thoroughly adequate script--one that never seems to deliver the goods.

    Douglas plays an ex-senator bent on starting the first white colony in Oregon in 1848. The problem is that he's not exactly 'Mr. Personality'--and his abrasive and autocratic ways rub everyone in the wagon train wrong. Can he get them all to his promised land or will the folks ditch him and make for California? Tune in and see.

    For the most part, this is a pretty ordinary drama about settling the West. As for Douglas, he overacts more than usual (and what's with that whipping scene?!?!). Widmark's character is inconsistent and underwritten. The only lead who comes off well is Mitchum--as a weary Kit Carson-type. Aside from being pretty ordinary and predictable, the film did have a few pluses. There was nice cinematography and as a history teacher, I appreciated how they showed lots of mules, oxen and cows pulling the wagons--whereas most films only show horses (a mistake). But this isn't enough to raise it above mediocrity.
  • This motion picture is based on the Pulitzer-winning novel by A. B. Guthrie. It starts in Independence, Missouri, 1843, senator William(Kirk Douglas) asks volunteers to unite themselves towards Oregon. Among them find the Evans family, formed by Lije(Richard Widmark) his wife Rebecca(Lola Albright) and their son Brownnie; the justly married Johnnie and Amanda Mack and various traders from Independence. Kirk Douglas join forces with Robert Mitchum, as a taciturn explorer, he's a supreme hero in a performance that epitomises the spirit of the early West at least as Hollywood saw it.

    The American West has a turbulent and mighty history , some of which is told in story and folk songs . Here is a panoramic view of the American West, concerning on the dangers, hazards, travels and tribulations of pioneers set against the background of breathtaking landscapes and risked deeds, including Indians attack and one deeply cliff. Particularly impressive for its notable cast list and expansive Western setting. Any Western that play stars such as Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Richard Widmark and Sally Field -film debut- is at least worth a glimpse. Furthermore a magnificent secondary casting, as Jack Elam, Stubby Kaye, John Agar, John Mitchum, among others. Sadly this epic Western doesn't hold up that well on TV set because was released on the great screen and much of the grandeur of the original version is lost. But Shootém-up and spectacular scenarios fans won't want to miss a chance to see many of the genre's greats in one movie. This is an epic movie , photographed in gorgeous Technicolor by William Clothier- John Ford's usual cameraman-, adding lustre on the groundbreaking sweep, along with an emotive musical score by Branislaw Kaper. The film is splendidly filmed on locations in America's National forests and professionally directed by Andrew W McLagen.
  • The Way West is an epic western, but unlike another epic western How the West Was Won, it isn't a very good film. The main problem here is that the script writers and the director have got carried away, and have tried to cram far too many events and subplots into the two hour running time.

    The main plot thread follows an ambitious and cruel visionary named William Tadlock (Kirk Douglas), who dreams of taking hundreds of people into the vast, unexplored wilderness of the Wild West and starting up a new town. His ambition is an obsession. It drives him and dictates his every move. Even his own family come second in his list of priorities. During the journey, his behaviour towards the other pioneers becomes increasingly irrational and unsympathetic, and in the end he loses the respect of his fellow travellers.

    There are some good moments in the film. The climax is really surprising, with a twist that few viewers will predict. Sally Field has some interesting scenes as a young girl who undergoes a sexual awakening during the trip. There's also a well done scene in which a man who has killed an Indian child by accident is hanged. However, the abundance of plot threads, characters and subplots is a big drawback. The makers should have concentrated on a few elements and done them really thoroughly, instead of cramming in so much and only dealing with the themes in a shallow and all-too-brief fashion. This is not bad, I suppose, but it could have been oh so much better.
  • An attempt at an epic old-style Western from a journeyman director - he made a better stab at it later with Chisum. Perhaps its the lack of John Wayne and the rest of the John Ford rep but this is a film of striking set-pieces separated by far too much time! Douglas and Widmark both do some stirring scenery-chewing but this is a melodrama so that is allowed. Mitchum is laid-back and laconic as only Mitchum could be - and looks wonderful as ever. Not sure why others were surprised to see him in a Western - Mitchum made his share and some very good ones too (El Dorado, Five Card Stud and Bandido are all favourites of mine). The Fort Hall sequence is fun - just as a reminder that the Sioux and the French weren't the only folks that got there before the Americans! ;-)
  • "The Way West" came from a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, with Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum , Richard Widmark and a fantastic young Sally Fields on the cast. That should make it a winner, right? But Andrew McLaglen, even being a good director ,with minor flaws, is no John Ford or Anthony Man or Budd Boetticher. Also McLaglen was ordered by David Picker, vice president of production of United Artists to cut the first 20 minutes of the film (from an interview, "The Westerners:Interviews with Actors,Directors…" C.Courtney Joyner). The result was that the movie was a disappointment to those who had great expectations, which were many. But the disappointment changes into a happy surprise when one see the film now. There are the great scenes with Sally Fields, the cinematography of William H. Clothier, the good screenplay, but still those twenty initial minutes are missing,
  • This is what you call a sprawling western with a vast array of big name stars, scenery, action, and characterization. There is never a dull moment. Its got tons of adventure and action mixed with important character points along the way. Widmark was best when he got away from his sadistic bad guy roles. Here, he plays a reluctant hero, and to be honest, the parts were well written and directed. The actors added their talent, and the results are a larger than life spectacular show. Douglas is very believable as the man who begins good and descends into a horrible human being. The way different characters handle revenge is stunningly poignant. The chief who lost his son could easily wipe out the whole band, but his love of justice makes his unseen presence totally visible. A monumental bit of writing to do this, to make such a character who practically never appears for all intents and purposes. The scenery is vivid and spell binding. Mitchum's role is one that any actor would covet, and he handles it with aplomb. Sally Field plays maybe her best role ever. he movie is never mentioned by critics, but is the unsung hero of westerns, and a great example of how superior they were before 1970.
  • In 1843 Missouri, hot-headed senator Kirk Douglas leads a large group of chosen people across rugged terrain to start "a new Jerusalem" in Oregon; he picks a half-blind pioneer scout (mourning the death of his Indian wife!) to help lead them, but immediately clashes with a family man over incidental matters; meanwhile, a sex-starved teenage girl has a fling with a married man, resulting in personal tragedy and an Indian attack (don't ask). A small pox outbreak is falsely reported, there's a wedding, a frigid woman goes insane, and the trail comes to an end at the Grand Canyon. A.B. Guthrie, Jr.'s book becomes somewhat besotted western epic with star-names, mixing vulgar jokes and inanities with ripe old clichés. A voice-over narration and a patriotic song come clean out of nowhere, while snarling Douglas blames himself for a death and asks a servant to whip him. It's cheap and low-brow all the way, but most viewers in the mood for a picture such as this probably won't be disappointed. There are some solid elements worth mentioning: William H. Clothier's outdoor cinematography is fine in the old-fashioned sense; and, although Bronislau Kaper whips up a dusty frenzy with his ridiculous score, the pacing is jaunty throughout and the wagons roll along at a fast clip. Douglas and Richard Widmark manage to retain their movie star allure, though Robert Mitchum was looking haggard by this time (and his performance is intentionally forgettable--he cancels out all his interest in the proceedings with one heavy sigh). Sally Field makes an inauspicious movie debut which I'm fairly certain she'd rather forget, but Lola Albright has a pleasing smile and Michael Witney does well as the handsome married man who can't get his wife to submit...but why does he shoot blindly into a rustling bush at night when it could have been his wife spying on him? Perhaps he was hoping it was! **1/2 from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    You know a movie's in trouble when the best thing you can say about it is the scenery's nice.Well,there's plenty of nice scenery in "The way West". Sadly the rest of it's pretty lousy.Kirk Douglas is so bad that if I was a Texas Tadlock I'd be thinking of suing.It's the sort of thing that gives ancestors a bad name.Robert Mitchum looks as though is is just waiting for the cheque to clear - he barely bothers to turn up in some of his scenes,and Richard Widmark shoulda gone easy on the Diazepam (T.M.) Lola Albright looks like she thought she'd signed on for a Disney picture. And poor little Sally Field,long before she realised that we do love her,plays a pioneers' daughter rather keen on a different sort of pioneering.What a mess it all is. Epic Westerns were dead by 1967 - hell,they were probably dead by 1957,but they just hadn't laid down.You could no longer stick a number of big name actors in a wagon train and let them do their thing.Unfortunately,no one had told Andrew V.McClaglen.He was competent enough given more structured material, viz - "Shenandoah",but "The Way West" just rambles on in a perfunctory manner while the audience slumbers. Let's tiptoe away and let them rest until Clint Eastwood comes along to wake them with a kiss.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The sixties were the last decade when western was a genre in its own right.It was dying all along the seventies and began to disappear afterwards,only revived now and then by people like Eastwood or Costner. Everybody knows that the western heyday was before:the forties and the fifties produced the definitive classics:Ford,Daves,Mann,Walsh were here.

    "The Way West" is a fairly entertaining if conventional movie.In 1960 ,Anthony Mann did a better job -about the same subject-with "Cimarron".

    LITTLE SPOILER HERE Of the three leads ,only Douglas is given a relative interesting part:the actor has enough talent to overcome the weaknesses of the plot and he sometimes look like an old patriarch,some kind of Moses leading his people to the promise land.He can be particularly cruel and brutal and like Moses,he won't see the new world it's never too late to build. END OF SPOILER

    As for Widmark ,he's cast against type as a nice man with wife and son,and he cannot make anything with it,and Robert Mitchum is cast as Robert Mitchum,period.

    A strong scene:an Indian boy has been killed by the Whites and his father demands justice.Douglas's character takes here harshness to new limits and during this long sequence,the audience is really panting for breath.MCLaglen ,probably influenced by Delmer Daves's lyricism,superbly uses the Indians here.

    An offbeat touch comes from the doomed Mack couple:the bride does not want to consummate the wedding and the husband consoles himself with a young Sally Field (her cinema debut)who was already hamming it up.
  • You would think that a film that starred three of the biggest male film stars of the post World War II era would have become a classic. These three who also happen to be three favorites of mine, walk around in a daze, looking like they'd rather be any place, but there.

    The sad thing is that The Way West definitely had some potential to be a classic. In these days of political correctness, a film about American pioneers and the travails of their westward migration is something not done now. It should have been better done back then.

    Kirk Douglas is a former United States Senator who's heading a wagon train west to build a settlement in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Being he's an ex-politician, he rates above the hoi ploi he's leading. The script calls for him to have not only a covered wagon, but a carriage to lead the train.

    You think that's ludicrous, you ought to see the whipping scene where Douglas orders his black servant, played by Roy Glenn to whip him. I won't spoil it by saying what causes Douglas to demand this of Glenn, but trust me, it's bad.

    Robert Mitchum is the trail guide and of the three stars he looks the most bored. There was supposed to be considerable friction on the set between Widmark and Douglas, but Mitchum just saunters through the film above it all.

    Maybe the friction helped somewhat because the movie calls for Douglas, a widower, to have an eye on Mrs. Widmark, played by Lola Albright. Now she's the best looking thing in the movie.

    The film billing says introducing Sally Field. This was made in between her Gidget and her Flying Nun days. She plays a piece of white southern trash with the musical comedy name of Mercy McBee. We first see her in the movie sitting on the back of her parents wagon, legs akimbo and inviting. Of course she gets taken up on her invitation.

    Her character is something like what's found in every trailer park in America and then again what was a wagon train, but one large trailer park on the move.

    Despite this film, Sally Field went on to a two Oscar career. What that woman had to overcome.

    Victor McLaglen's son Andrew directed this item and together with a lousy script turned this into a turgid mess. Shame on Andrew McLaglen, he's certainly done better in his career.

    And so will you, unless you're a stargazer.
  • What could possibly go wrong with a movie starring Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, and Richard Widmark that is also based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel? Quite a bit. For instance, there's routine direction by Andrew V. McGlaglen, who also directed some of John Wayne's most routine westerns in the 60s. Then there's a cliche-ridden script filled with plots and subplots leftover from a dozen daytime soaps. Still, I rather liked it when it was first released, and still find it entertaining because of its three stars. And, back in 1967, who would have ever believed that Sally Field, who was still best known as TV's "Gidget" when this film was released, had two Oscars in her future while the three legends heading the cast wouldn't even win one?
  • doug-balch17 March 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Andrew McLaglen, the director, is the son of actor Victor McLaglen, who was a member of the John Ford troupe. As a result, Andrew pretty much grew up on the sets of John Ford westerns. Not much rubbed off, sadly. I was willing to give him a break for directing 99 episodes of the awful "Have Gun, Will Travel". Clearly he had no budget. But here he has plenty of money. No excuses.

    The Way West is pretty much a gigantic mess, in which three big stars, Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum, show up to cash checks. Not surprisingly, Mitchum almost literally sleep walks through his role as a grizzled old mountain man/trapper/trail guide. It's disappointing, because it's the type of role he could have been good in, if he had been motivated.

    Here's what I liked:

    • this was the film debut of Sally Field, who looks about 16 years old. She does the best acting in the film also.


    • the relationship with the Indians was handled pretty realistically.


    • very nice location shooting. A lot of effort went into capturing panoramic Western vistas. t


    Here's what I didn't like:

    • Robert Mitchum wears about the most ridiculous looking cowboy hat I've ever seen in a Western.


    • There is a bizarre scene where Kirk Douglas orders the film's only black character to whip him. I'm not kidding.


    • SPOILER HERE: I will say that the movie was interesting enough that I watched it until the end. I'm sorry I did, because the movie climaxes with Kirk Douglas' character being murdered by a woman driven insane by her frigidity. Hard to believe, I know. Makes you almost sorry there was a sexual revolution in the 60's. This would have never happened to Randolph Scott.
  • This film had all to come out as a fine western: big budget, top stars, impressive outdoor locations, great color photography, acceptable stories around the main plot, interesting characters, action scenes and so on. But its a fact it didn't make it and turned out as just an average product and in my opinion director Andrew MacLaglen has to do with it.

    MacLaglen never was a very imaginative director. He just sort of pushed his films ahead following the scripts and taking no risks at all by including some personal touches or feelings; that's why it is hard to find really bad pictures in his filmography but you also won't find higher than average films either (other examples are "The Undefeated" with John Wayne and Rock Hudson; "The Last Hard Men" with Charton Heston, James Coburn and Barbara Hershey; "The Sea Wolves" with Gregory Peck, David Niven and Roger Moore). "The Way West" is a classical MacLaglen movie, just standard, average and light with no big flaws and no major highlights either.

    Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum are good but wasted in the leading parts. Sally Field's early role as a young girl too avid for man's favors showed she had talent and a promising career she certainly fulfilled.

    All in all, "The Way West" is just for western fans to spend a couple of hours without much expectations.
  • A good cast is wasted in a film effort out of place with a changing industry. Beautiful photography cannot save this vehicular drama of the Old West, as the first settlers to Oregon struggle their way west. Stuffed full of choreographed highlights and stereotyped characters, this tale simply fails. Douglas, Widmark and Mitchum look as though they're bored, and there's nary an inspired scene amongst them.

    Andrew McLaglen's direction plays out like an episodic television play, which makes sense in light of the fact that he cut his teeth on television. The musical score, especially the accompanying singing, is an embarrassment, and difficult to listen to without cringing. And with their perfectly coiffed hair, impeccably clean outfits and carefully applied makeup, the entire cast looks as though they're headed, not to Oregon along a dusty trail, but to a Halloween party.

    Filmed in the mid sixties, it has the misfortune of not fitting in with the cinematic times. Released near the presentation of such films as Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate and In the Heat of the Night, it's a tale told too late.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The Way West" is a grand epic western with something in common with "How the West Was Won" from a few years earlier. Both films deal with the opening up of the American West, although "The Way West" takes place over a much shorter timeline than the earlier film, which followed the history of a single family over several generations. It tells the story of a group of pioneers making their way overland to Oregon by wagon train in 1843. There are several interlocking plot lines. One concerns the rivalry between the group's leader, Senator William Tadlock, and a farmer named Lije Evans. Evans resents the Senator's autocratic attitudes and what he sees as Tadlock's attentions to his attractive wife Rebecca. Another storyline concerns the romance between Evans's teenage son Brownie and a girl named Mercy McBee, and another the troubled relationship between young married couple Johnnie and Amanda Mack.

    The film includes three established big-name stars in the shape of Kirk Douglas as Tadlock, Robert Mitchum as Dick Summers, the expedition's hired guide, and Richard Widmark as Evans. Sally Field, in the early part of her career better known as a television actress but later to become a major Hollywood star herself, also appears in her first big film role as Mercy. Douglas rarely played an outright villain, but his characters were not always outright heroes either; he was also capable of playing conflicted or morally ambiguous individuals. Examples include Midge Kelly in "Champion" and Jonathan Shields in "The Bad and the Beautiful", and Tadlock is another. This is not Douglas's greatest performance- certainly not as good as the two just mentioned- but it does show his ability to create characters who are flawed but not wholly unsympathetic.

    Tadlock is an idealist with a vision of America's destiny to open up the vast expanses of the West, but is also abrupt, autocratic and apt to alienate people. He can also be devious, as when he manufactures a smallpox scare in order to prevent his followers from accepting a British offer to settle down short of their goal. (At this period the Oregon Territory was jointly ruled by the United States and Great Britain). There are, however, also times when we feel for him, especially when his young son is killed in an accident. Another difficult moment comes when Johnnie Mack shoots and kills an Indian boy. The killing was an accident- Johnnie thought he was shooting at a wolf- but because the boy was the son of a chief the Indians demand justice. The senator is reluctantly forced to hang the young man, knowing that if he does not the entire wagon train is likely to be massacred. In doing so, however, he makes an implacable enemy of Amanda.

    Like "How the West Was Won", this film is probably best seen on the big screen, but until my local cinema decides to run a season of lesser- known Westerns from the sixties- which will doubtless be "never"- I will have to content myself with seeing it on television. Like many Westerns from the fifties and sixties it features some striking photography of the magnificent scenery of the American West; like some other films about east-to-west journeys across the continent (such as "The Far Horizons") it concentrates more on the passage through the Rocky Mountains than on the crossing of the less conventionally picturesque Great Plains. There is one particularly striking sequence where the pioneers lower their wagons, their livestock and themselves over a cliff with ropes in order to avoid a lengthy detour before winter sets in.

    "The Way West" is never, in my opinion at least, likely to rank among the really great Westerns. Yes, the photography is good, but photography alone is not normally enough to qualify a Western, or any other film, for greatness. ("Days of Heaven" may be an exception to that last statement). Despite all those big names in the cast, there is no really outstanding acting performance, and the film lacks the strength of characterisation and the moral depth of something like "The Naked Spur", "The Big Country", "The Shootist" or "Lonely Are the Brave", possibly Douglas's best Western. It is a good film, but falls some way short of classic status. 7/10
  • stevetadlock24 November 2006
    This movie was based upon a true story, Although he was a Illinois Tadlock and not of the Texas strain...We still honor him because we all came from the original 1779 Tadlock English emigrant. Most of the Tadlock's have been Farmer/rancher or Builders. William has been a predominate name in our family along with the physical trait of the cleft chin (it was nice that Hollywood selected "Kirk Douglas" who also has a cleft chin to play a Tadlock) My Great Grand Father left Texas (Gonzales County) in the early 1900's He (Malcolm Tadlock) and his brother (Rutherford Hayes Tadlock) traveled west building brick buildings along the way. Rutherford went back to Texas while Malcolm settled in San Diego in 1916 and became one of the founding members of the La Mesa 1st Baptist church. He and his wife "V" raise 65 thousand long leg Chickens during both world wars on their small ranch at 51st and Amherst in La Mesa, Ca. Along with running the commercial fishing boat the "Yellow Tail". They lost one son "Junior" in the south pacific during WW2.

    Steve Tadlock, Lakeside Ca. "God's Country" No stinking immoral liberal democrats here !!!
  • Hard-driving Kirk Douglas organizes a wagon train to Oregon, hiring mountain man Robert Mitchum to lead the way and squaring off with Indians, the elements, and hostility among the settlers, particularly hard-headed farmer Richard Widmark.

    Almost universally panned and patronized as director Andrew V. McLaglen's attempt to ape the style of his mentor John Ford, it's actually an innocuous, inoffensive adventure saga in the mold of How The West Was Won or Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail, though not as good as those films. It's still fairly watchable, except for the endless, obnoxious subplots featuring teenage Sally Field and her deflowering by a married, frustrated loser!

    Douglas and especially Mitchum are excellent, as usual. However, Widmark falls a little short, thanks to a less than interesting character, though he's always a welcome presence in anything he's involved in.
  • The three leading roles Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark pay the picture itself, added with a fine supporting casting as still beauty Lola Albright, the funny Harry Carey Jr., the younger fiery Sally Field and Stefan Arngrim who after this picture was casting for Irwin's Allen's Land of the Giants series, a supposed story about a caravan between Missouri to Oregon, almost shot along the long journey, across great lowlands, deserts, forest and deepest canyon, in the meantime followed by angry Indians, disagreement over the route, betrayal, hanging and love, Mitchum maybe was the most interesting character, draught, wise, alone and friendy, Kirk Douglas is quite a opposite guy unyielding and dreamer, Widmark a brute force, summarizing the picture let it see easily, apart the final scenes at canyon!!!

    Resume:

    First watch: 2019 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 7.5
  • An American Western adventure based on the novel "The Way West" by B. Guthrie Jr. It tells the story of pioneers heading west on the Oregon trail from Missouri in 1843 led by a self-absorbed, exacting ex-Senator, Kirk Douglas, and his guide, Robert Mitchum, and assorted courageous pioneer families including Richard Widmark, consumed with wanderlust. The film is handsomely photographed with crisp, colourful cinematography of locations in Arizona and Oregon. The film is set up to portray the motives of the settlers who left everything behind and ventured west. The drama arises from the assorted rag tag supporting characters and external forces on the plains. It abandons early promise of a story about why they have given up everything to take a dangerous journey and falls into superfluous sub plot and melodrama. While entertaining and enjoyable for its high production values it is uneven with a slightly shifting tone throughout - sometimes bleak and harsh, sometimes comedic and rejoicing.
  • What catches my attention, for the most part, is the beautiful Oregon (pronounced Oragun) scenery. A pox on those who think that it's GONE! Seems that they couldn't get 2 actors to pronounce the name of the state correctly two times in a row. Me, I've lived in the state for over 60 years, so I'm a wee bit sensitive to it's proper pronunciation and it's not defined by those from without, but those from within.
  • spookyrat112 December 2018
    If there's a better film that realistically depicts the movement of a wagon train and the sort of challenges they faced, overcame and at times failed, in blazing a trail through the wilderness, I'd like to know what it is. And The Way West looks good. In fact it looks great, even today, over 50 years since it was released. Many of the wide screen vistas are stunning and make the movie worth seeing, just for them alone.

    It's just a shame then, that I have to agree with many others on this site, as well as critics of the time, when agreeing that the movie, when judged on its entirety just doesn't really work.

    It's not really the fault of its all star cast. It's a hoot to see Sally Field in her film debut, playing a character light years away from The Flying Nun in behaviour. The big triumvirate of Douglas, Mitchum and Widmark, all give it their best shot, though at times I feel Douglas is guilty of over-acting and Mitchum's Dick Summers is a notably passive role, where surprisingly he rarely if ever dominates the screen. The supporting cast is diverse, with many having plenty of western experience.

    For me the problem lies in the drama content of the story. There really isn't enough time spent with the major characters and the collective dynamic of the challenge of managing the wagon train. Instead we get too much time spent with the situation travails of the Mack family (fairly minor characters in the scheme of things) and later Mercy McBee. It results in a film with some justifiable claims to be an epic tale, ending up having all the dramatic punch of a typical weekly episode of the old TV series Wagon Train. The cheesy song that occasionally imposes itself on the soundtrack doesn't help intensify the drama quotient either.

    The film can be compared to an attractive postcard. The front may be great to look at, but the story on the back just amounts to some brief, sketchy lines.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE WAY WEST is a Hollywood western that might well be described as 'Oregon Trail, the movie'. Kirk Douglas leads a bunch of settlers from the Eastern seaboard to Oregon, and their wagon train must deal with numerous problems along the way. There are deep rivers to cross, valleys that need descending, arid salt pans to get through, as well as hostile Sioux tribes with murder in mind. Of course, the greatest conflict comes from within the group. I liked this character-based drama which moves along as nicely as the wagon train itself and has plenty of sub-plots to get involved with. The dream team of Douglas, Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum were all seasoned western stars and do very well with the material they're given, while Sally Field has a memorable early role as a man-hungry teen. The ending is particularly strong here.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When this movie starts out, you're apt to think, "Hey this is going to be a good one!" It's a handsome production, great scenery, and it has a great cast -- Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, and Richard Widmark.

    But the longer if goes on, the more you feel as if you have seen it before...and you have...there are a lot of wagon train clichés here. But let's think about that for a minute. Clichés are often based on truth, and on a wagon train journey of this scope, I rather imagine many of these trials and tribulations -- and many more -- faced the pioneers. Heck, I hate driving through some of these states on an Interstate due to the risks of breaking down and being stranded. Taken one by one, there isn't an incident here that I could discount. Again, it's just that we've pretty much seen them all before.

    The problem I see here is that we never learn very much about the main characters. Who is Senator William Tadlock (Kirk Douglas). What makes him like he is? Is he just the type that likes to be boss? I think that's way too simplistic. Who is Dick Summers (Robert Mitchum). He seems rather passive here; we do finally learn that he is going blind...maybe that's why. No character development at all. We know the most about Lije Evans (Richard Widmark)...although that's darned little. All the characters are far too simplistic. And for that, I blame the writers, producer, and director.

    Kirk Douglas is VERY restrained here...and I'm not sure that's why most of us went to the theater to see a restrained Kirk Douglas. Robert Mitchum is very passive as the guide, but as I mentioned earlier, perhaps that was because of his approaching blindness. Or,maybe he was just walking through this role. Richard Widmark, often an underestimated actor, probably comes off the best here.

    The supporting cast includes Lola Albright (as Widmarks's wife; and she does well here); Jack Elam as a preacher of sorts (he does well); Sally Field in her film debut, here as a somewhat slutty young woman (perhaps her worst screen portrayal); and oddly enough, Stubby Kaye as one of the pioneers.

    I have a hard time recommending this film UNLESS you are really into Westerns, or like gorgeous scenery, or want to contemplate how the early pioneers must have suffered on the way west. It's not that it's a bad film...it's just not that good, either.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Westerns and musicals were the staples of cinema from the late 30s through to the late 60s. Then tastes changed, and both genres went out of fashion. Before they did so, The Way West appeared on the screen.

    It is an absolutely traditional western in the old style, telling the story of a wagon train carrying a mixed batch of settlers to a new life, with the story being a mixture of the trials and tribulations they encounter on the way, and the soapy goings on among the people travelling. Among the former are Indians, crossing a deep canyon etc., and among the latter are the power struggles between those in charge (Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark, Robert Mitchum - similar to the battle for top billing, one imagines), and the saucy antics of little Mercy McBee (Sally Field in her first credited movie role, putting in a performance which manages to be winsome and slutty all at the same time).

    This movie looks great - the landscape photography is wonderful - but is otherwise a completely routine western of the old school.
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