When I began my historical family saga, Journey to Tracer’s Point, I had this vision of how romantic traveling by covered wagon out west would be. I’ve watched enough John Wayne movies and many others to know the pioneers worked hard getting to their destinations, but still there was always that aura of adventure.
There was only one movie that left me knowing the trip west was not fun and could be life-threatening. The movie Westward the Women (1951) (play clip by clicking on title)with Robert Taylor and Denise Darcel embodied the journey by covered wagon in black and white, giving realistic hardships that challenged those hardy pioneers who searched for a better life.
A quote from IMDb The Internet Movie Database:
“The remarkable thing about this little-known film is that it shows, in eye-opening detail, what hardships pioneers endured crossing the plains to California. And the reason it is so honest is that hardships of the trail are the whole point: Robert Taylor is hired to drive a wagon train of potential brides to a newly formed community of farmers. At first he refuses, claiming women cannot withstand the demands of the thousands of miles of trail with only a few male escorts. And therefore the film presents those hardships. At no point does the movie become predictable. Any of them could perish; many do. There's a rape scene, a murder, a flash flood, a runaway wagon, etc. You begin to hope for each woman's survival. Especially moving are the immigrant Italian woman and her young son, the unwed pregnant girl, the big-mama type, and Taylor's Chinese sidekick (their drunken scene is a treat). But the movie holds interest throughout. It misses being a truly great Western only becomes of its neatly wrapped up Hollywood ending. But this is a movie that will change your view of westbound pioneers forever, especially of pioneer women.”
If you ever get a chance to see this movie, it’s worthwhile. Since its release, Hollywood has now colorized it. I prefer the original version, but I’m sure it’s enjoyable either way.
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