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Westward the Women

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Westward the Women
Westward the Women.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byWilliam A. Wellman
Screenplay byCharles Schnee
Story byFrank Capra
Produced byDore Schary
StarringRobert Taylor
Denise Darcel
John McIntire
CinematographyWilliam C. Mellor
Edited byJames E. Newcom
Music byJeff Alexander
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
December 31, 1951
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,996,000[1]

Westward the Women is a 1951 Western film directed by William A. Wellman and starring Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel and John McIntire.


In 1851, Roy Whitman decides to bring marriageable women west to California to join the lonely men of Whitman's Valley, hoping the couples will put down roots and settle there. Roy hires a skeptical, experienced wagon master, Buck Wyatt, to lead the wagon train along the California Trail. In Chicago, Roy recruits 138 "good women", despite Buck telling them that a third will not survive the journey. The women range from Patience, an older widow from New Bedford, to Rose Meyers, a pregnant, unmarried woman seeking a better future for her child. Roy encourages them to pick their prospective mates from daguerreotype pictures he has tacked to a display board. Two showgirls, Fifi Danon and Laurie Smith, hastily change their flashy clothes when others like them are rejected. Whitman is not fooled, but is convinced they sincerely wish to reform, so he accepts them.

Roy and Buck take the women to St. Joseph, Missouri, where Conestoga wagons, horses, and mules await them, along with 15 men Buck has hired. He is impressed by the persistence of Ito, a short Japanese man, so he hires him as a cook. Before setting out, Buck tells the women to stay away from his men and vice versa. He has seen wagon trains torn apart by men taking up with unmarried women. The four women who have experience teach the others how to harness up the animals and drive the wagons. After a week's training, they head west.

During the journey, he shoots and kills one of his men for raping Laurie. As a result, all but two of the trail hands desert in the middle of the night, taking eight of the women with them. This leaves only Buck, Roy, Ito, and Sid Cutler, who has fallen in love with Rose. Faced with this setback, Roy decides they must turn back. Buck, knowing that they have already come halfway to their destination and not wanting to gain a bad reputation that will end his career as a wagon master, believes the women can learn to "do a man's job," and starts training them to shoot so they can defend themselves. Young Tony Moroni, the only boy, is accidentally killed during firearms practice. When his grief-stricken mother (who only speaks Italian) refuses to leave her son's grave, Buck knocks her out and puts her in Patience and Rose's wagon.

The women persevere through hardships and dangers, including a stampede and a dangerous descent down a steep, rocky trail that kills one of them. An Indian attack claims the lives of Roy, Sid, and six women. When a rainstorm undercuts the riverbank her wagon is on, Laurie is trapped inside and drowned. However, Fifi's spirit begins to thaw Buck's attitude towards women in general and her in particular.

On the edge of the desert, Buck has the women lighten the wagons. Reluctantly, the women leave everything from furniture to fancy clothing behind. As they proceed, Rose goes into labor and delivers a boy. Eventually, they reach a small lake that is near Whitman's Valley.

The women refuse to go any further until Buck brings them decent clothing and "pretty things" so that they will look presentable. Buck rides on ahead to inform the men of the valley. The men any material they can find for the women to make into new clothes. Back in proper dresses, the ladies drive into town and pair off with the men whose pictures they picked, with Patience warning the men that it is the women and not the men who will be doing the choosing. Mrs. Moroni is paired with a citrus farmer from Italy, and one man is quite willing to accept Rose's infant son. Some of the couples get in line to be wed by a preacher, while others dance. Ito coaxes Fifi to swallow her pride and go to Buck, who pretends to be preparing to ride out, instead of waiting for him to come to her. Fifi and Buck join the line to be married.



A documentary included in the film's DVD states that it was filmed at various locations in Kane County, Utah.[2] Film locations also include Johnson Canyon, the Gap, Paria, and Surprise Valley in Utah.[3] The documentary also mentions that the actresses all had to learn how to drive a four horse team pulling a wagon.


According to MGM records the film earned $2,640,000 in the US and Canada and $1,356,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $266,000.[1]

Radio adaptation

Westward the Women was presented on Lux Radio Theatre December 29, 1952. Taylor and Darcel re-created their roles from the film in the one-hour adaptation.[4]

Caravans of women

In 1985, the Spanish village of Plan, Aragón made Spanish news because local bachelors organized a "caravan of women" after Westward the Women was aired on TV. At the time the plan was conceived, there were over 40 single men and just one single woman in the town, since most of the local women had emigrated. An advertisement in the press calling for "Women between 20 and 40 with marriage intentions for Pyrenees village" resulted in 33 marriages, revitalizing Plan.[5]

Since then, other Spanish villages have organized similar "caravans".[5]


  1. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study. Los Angeles. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ Documentary included with the DVD Westward the Women. ASIN B007RKFXQW.
  3. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  4. ^ Kirby, Walter (December 28, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 36. Retrieved June 5, 2015 – via open access
  5. ^ a b "Los hijos de la caravana, sin plan". El Mundo (in Spanish). January 16, 2005.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 October 2021, at 20:49
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