The Way West (film)
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|The Way West|
Original 1967 cinema poster
|Directed by||Andrew V. McLaglen|
|Produced by||Harold Hecht|
|Screenplay by||Ben Maddow
|Based on||The Way West
by A.B. Guthrie Jr.
|Music by||Bronislau Kaper|
|Cinematography||William H. Clothier|
|Edited by||Otho Lovering|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The Way West is a 1967 American western film based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.. The film stars Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, and Richard Widmark, and features Sally Field in her first major film role. The film was directed by veteran television director Andrew V. McLaglen and featured on-location cinematography by William H. Clothier.
U.S. Senator William Tadlock (Kirk Douglas) is leaving his home in Missouri in 1843, heading west on the Oregon Trail by wagon train. His son and slave come along, with Dick Summers (Robert Mitchum) as a hired guide.
Joining them on the expedition are farmer Lije Evans (Richard Widmark), his wife Rebecca (Lola Albright), and 16-year-old son Brownie (Michael McGreevey). Among others there are also the newlyweds Johnnie (Michael Witney) and Amanda Mack (Katherine Justice), plus the Fairman and McBee families.
Shy young wife Amanda isn't satisfying his needs, so Johnnie gets drunk and strays with young Mercy McBee (Sally Field). He also shoots at what he drunkenly thinks is a wolf and ends up killing a Sioux chief's son. Tadlock knows that no other form of justice will do for the Indians if the wagon train is to be permitted to go on its way, so he hangs young Johnnie. On the trail, it turns out Mercy is now pregnant as well. Brownie proposes marriage to her. Tadlock's son is killed in a stampede, causing the senator to be so distraught, he asks his slave to take a whip to his back.
Lije Evans has seen enough. The last straw comes when Tadlock fakes a smallpox scare in order to keep the emigrants from dropping out to settle near Fort Hall or to split off for California. Tadlock is attacked by Evans, who takes charge of the trek.
Nearly to the end, Rebecca Evans shows the others Tadlock's grand plan, just beyond a steep ravine. They lower possessions, livestock, and each other down the steep escarpment to reach the wagon road to the Willamette Valley. Emotionally destroyed by the loss of Johnnie, Amanda Mack cuts a rope and causes Tadlock to plunge to his death. Amanda runs off into the desert, but the others press on to Oregon.
This was the first time that Mitchum and Douglas appeared in a film together since Out of the Past in 1947.
Douglas had previously filmed another A.B. Guthrie novel, The Big Sky.
- Kirk Douglas as Sen. William J. Tadlock
- Robert Mitchum as Dick Summers
- Richard Widmark as Lije Evans
- Lola Albright as Rebecca Evans
- Jack Elam as Preacher Weatherby
- Michael Witney as Johnnie Mack
- Sally Field as Mercy McBee
- Stubby Kaye as Sam Fairman
- Katherine Justice as Amanda Mack
- Michael McGreevey as Brownie Evans
- Connie Sawyer as Mrs. McBee
- Harry Carey, Jr. as Mr. McBee
- Paul Lukather as Mr. Turley
- Eve McVeagh as Mrs. Masters