Westward the Women
|Westward the Women|
|Directed by||William A. Wellman|
|Produced by||Dore Schary|
|Written by||Charles Schnee
Frank Capra (story)
|Release date(s)||31 December 1951|
|Running time||118 minutes|
|Box office||$2.75 million (US rentals)|
In 1851, Roy Whitman (John McIntire) decides to transport marriageable women west to join his lonely men, hoping the couples will put down roots and settle his California valley. Roy hires a skeptical, hardened trail boss, Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor), to lead the wagon train along the California Trail. In Chicago, Roy recruits 138 "good women", after they have been warned of the journey's hardships and dangers by Buck. Telling the women about his valley, Roy encourages them to pick their prospective mates from pictures he has tacked to a board. Two saloon girls, Fifi Danon (Denise Darcel) and Laurie Smith (Julie Bishop), hastily change their flashy clothes when others like them are rejected. Roy is not fooled by their disguise, but convinced of their sincere wish to reform, he adds them to the group.
During the journey, Buck shoots one of his men as punishment for raping Laurie. As a result, all but two of the trail hands desert the wagons in the middle of the night, taking eight of the women with them. This leaves only Ito (Henry Nakamura), the Japanese cook, and Sid Cutler (an uncredited Pat Conway), who has fallen in love with an already-pregnant Rose Meyers (Beverly Dennis), to lead the train. Buck, feeling he cannot continue without more experienced hands, decides the group must turn back. The women refuse to accept his decision. Roy believes that the women can learn to do "a man's job", so Buck starts training them. However, the only child in the group is accidentally shot by his own mother during shooting practice. Buck is forced to knock out the distraught woman, (Renata Vanni) when she refuses to leave her son's grave in the desert.
The women perform heroically, persevering through many hardships, including a stampede. An Indian attack kills Roy, Sid, and some of the women. Laurie drowns when a rainstorm overturns her wagon, trapping her inside. However, Fifi's bravery and determination begin to thaw out Buck's attitude towards women in general and her in particular. When the survivors finally reach their destination, the women balk at entering town where their prospective grooms are waiting - until Buck can bring them decent clothing and "pretty things" so that they can look presentable. The men of the valley gather together curtains, tablecloths, Indian blankets, any material they can find, for the women to make into new clothes.
The ladies then ride triumphantly into town and pair up with the men whose photographs they carried across country. The happy couples get in line before the preacher. Ito coaxes Fifi to convince Buck to join the line to get married.
- Robert Taylor as Buck Wyatt
- Denise Darcel as Fifi Danon
- John McIntire as Roy E. Whitman
- Hope Emerson as Patience Hawley
- Julie Bishop as Laurie Smith
- Lenore Lonergan as Maggie O'Malley
- Henry Nakamura as Ito Yoshisuke Takeyoshi Gennosuke Kentaro
- Marilyn Erskine as Jean Johnson
- Beverly Dennis as Rose Meyers
- Renata Vanni as Mrs. Maroni
- Pat Conway as Sid Cutler
- 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953