“We can’t turn back — we’re blazing a trail that started in England.”
A frontiersman (John Wayne) seeking revenge on the man who killed his trapping partner agrees to lead a wagon trail headed west, not knowing the man he’s looking for is actually the sinister wagon boss (Tyrone Power, Sr.). Meanwhile, he falls in love with a beautiful widowed mother (Marguerite Churchill) who resists his advances, and is instead interested in a duplicitous gambler (Ian Keith).
Raoul Walsh’s epic early western is notable for featuring Wayne in his first leading role, and for being shot in an experimental wide-screen process known as Grandeur 70. As an impressive recreation of the challenges of westward expansion, it visually rivals The Covered Wagon (1923); but its narrative is too cliched to maintain substantial interest. Power’s identity as The Baddie is not only revealed early on, but entirely foreseeable give his over-the-top performance; and Wayne’s romancing of Churchill (who’s offended by his accidental kiss of her early on, and can’t seem to let that go) is similarly predictable. The best scenes are those showcasing the numerous perils faced by the intrepid settlers; the worst are those featuring “comic relief” El Brendel as a Swede terrorized by his menacing mother-in-law (Louise Carver).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Impressive recreations of the Westward Movement
- Fine cinematography
No, but it’s worth a one-time look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.