Wells Fargo (1937)

“In the old days, we had one important rule: get there.”

Synopsis:
An ambitious messenger (Joel McCrea) for the Wells Fargo Company in pre-Civil War America helps shape the future of communication and banking across the states while maintaining a long-distance marriage with his southern wife (Frances Dee).

Genres:

Review:
The primary goal of this episodic western is to showcase the impressive historical trajectory of transcontinental communication in 19th century United States: we’re shown the marvel of eating fresh oysters in New York (before salmonella sets in!); the remarkable ability for Americans to send letters to their loved ones during the Gold Rush; and the challenges of transferring money during an era of continuous robberies and land battles across the nation. However, the jam-packed storyline is hampered by far too many historic moments in one movie, as well as too much time spent on McCrea’s marital challenges. This film will primarily be of interest to McCrea fans wanting to see him in his first film opposite Dee (his real-life spouse).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Interesting historic footage of the dangerous, time-consuming work involved in helping Americans communicate

Must See?
No, unless you’re a fan of this type of historical western.

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One Response to “Wells Fargo (1937)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must, for its place in cinema history and its historical significance. I’m more enthusiastic about this film than the assessment given here. I take a particular interest in this kind of document re: the progressive American spirit, esp. if it has a compelling thrust (which this does).

    I tried to check online for more of the facts behind this film – but neither Wikipedia nor IMDb have much of anything in terms of backstory. Nevertheless, the film does largely appear believable (if nothing else).

    I don’t agree that the film covers “far too many historic moments in one movie”. On the contrary, the film serves as an overview of the vast extent of inter-personal need in the early pioneer days. (Having just read Kurt Andersen’s ‘Fantasyland’ – and its coverage of the gold-mining craze, among many other things – it was nice to see this film as an illustration of some of Andersen’s thesis.) The film is also simply an interesting story.

    Side Note: This was not the first film pairing McCrea and Dee. They met in 1933 during the filming of ‘The Silver Cord’. Personally, I always liked them as a couple (they were married for an astonishing 57 years) and I particularly like their obvious chemistry in this film.

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