Western Union


Action / History / Western

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 60%
IMDb Rating 6.8 10 1897


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July 18, 2016 at 11:48 PM



Dean Jagger as Edward Creighton
John Carradine as Doc Murdoch
Jay Silverheels as Indian
Iron Eyes Cody as Indian Who Drinks Chemical Solution
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679.69 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 35 min
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1.43 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 35 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by JohnHowardReid 10 / 10

This time we all agree!

Randolph Scott (Vance Shaw), Robert Young (Richard Blake), Dean Jagger (Edward Creighton), Virginia Gilmore (Sue Creighton), John Carradine (Doc Murdoch), Slim Summerville (Herman), Chill Wills (Homer), Barton MacLane (Jack Slade), Russell Hicks (governor), Victor Kilian (Charlie), Minor Watson (Pat Grogan), George Chandler (Herb), Chief Big Tree (Chief Spotted Horse), Chief Thundercloud (Indian leader), Dick Rich (Porky), Harry Strang (henchman), Charles Middleton (stagecoach rider), Addison Richards (Captain Harlow), Irving Bacon (barber), Francis Ford, Eddy Waller (stagecoach drivers), James Flavin, Frank Mills, Ralph Dunn (men), Paul E. Burns (Bert), Cliff Clark, Hank Bell.

Director: FRITZ LANG. 2nd unit director: Otto Brower. Screenplay: Robert Carson. Based on the 1939 novel by Zane Grey. Photographed in Technicolor by Edward Cronjager and Allen M. Davey. Film editor: Robert Bischoff. Art directors: Richard Day, Wiard B. Ihnen. Set decorator: Thomas Little. Costumes: Travis Banton. Music director: David Buttolph. Technicolor color consultants: Natalie Kalmus, Morgan Padelford. Associate film editor: Gene Fowler Jr. Sound recording: Bernard Freericks, Roger Heman. Western Electric Sound System. Associate producer: Harry Joe Brown. Executive producer: Darryl F. Zanuck.

Copyright 21 February 1941 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Roxy: 6 February 1941. U.S. release: 21 February 1941. Australian release: 29 January 1942. 8,602 feet. 95 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Despite Indians and outlaws, Western Union constructs a telegraph line from Omaha, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Utah.

NOTES: Although Irving Bacon is credited as Joe, the barber, in the credits of the print under review, the part — in this version at least — was played not by Bacon but by Olin Howland.

These credits also state that the art directors were Richard Day and Albert Hogsett. Both Wiard B. Ihnen and 20th Century-Fox dispute this credit. Both maintain that Mr. Hogsett had nothing to do with the sets for Western Union and that they were in fact designed by Ihnen, under Day's general supervision.

COMMENT: A really memorable western which fully justifies its high reputation. Spectacularly produced, with action a-plenty, agreeably acted, superlatively photographed, with lots of forceful Lang touches in direction.

From the opening credits, underlined by Buttolph's stirring score, through the opening shot of the buffalo with Scott (or at least his double) hard riding into their midst, the pace hardly ever lets up until the final unexpected fade-out.

Aided by marvelous color photography, the clever script (which actually owes little but its title to the Zane Grey novel) introduces at least six or seven rousing action episodes. All built around some particularly daring stunt-work. Good to see Robert Young doing a fair bit of his own riding, but most impressive of all is Dean Jagger, caught making his own leap from an overturning wagon. Of course, Jagger, aside from this action spot, is much his usual limp blanket, but at least he isn't in the movie all that much.

Also slightly on the negative side of the cast roster is Virginia Gilmore, a little too postcard pretty, in my opinion, to be wholly believable.

Lack of credibility is certainly not a charge that can be leveled against Randolph Scott who is every inch your typically laconic, torn-twixt-love-and-duty western hero. Unlike Gilmore, Scott really looks the part. Young is effective too. Slim Summerville is along for comic relief. Whilst some of his antics are a trifle forced, we like Slim anyway. A bearded (and unrecognizable were it not for his distinctively rich voice) Victor Kilian makes a surprisingly effective stooge.

Led by John Carradine (made up to look like the Henry Hull character in "Return of Frank James"), many of our favorite character actors can be spotted along the way, including the here ill-fated Chill Wills (in a straighter part than usual); Francis Ford as the stage driver with whom Summerville tries to escape; James Flavin as a member of the bank hold-up posse; Russell Hicks as a governor reduced to horse holder; George Chandler as the victim of an "Indian" attack.

Best of all is Barton MacLane as the notorious Jack Slade whose humor is strained by his kinship with our hero.

In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Lang remarked that audiences tend to remember the visual aspects of a film rather than the dialogue. I'm inclined to agree with this observation, yet there's a scene in Western Union which amply demonstrates Lang's mastery of both. Kilian bets Carradine a week's wages that Chandler won't last the night, despite the doc's best efforts to save him. Later, Carradine silently exits his tent, peels off a wad of notes into Kilian's waiting hand, and without a word slowly walks off. Kilian cheerfully calls after him: "Better luck next time, Doc!"

Lang tops all the spectacular action with a suspenseful double climax which ends the movie on a totally unpredictable note.

OTHER VIEWS: The best of Fox's traditional western epics. — William K. Everson.

The most beautiful and epic of Lang's westerns (it was the director's personal favorite), "Western Union" is an outstanding entry in the genre. — Motion Picture Guide.

Reviewed by weezeralfalfa 8 / 10

Epic treatment of construction of transcontinental telegraph line.

Obviously intended to be an epic western, based on the Zane Gray novel of the same title. A rare, for the times, Technicolor western, it concerns the trials of the telegraph line construction crew in dealing with 2 sets of antagonists: 1)an outlaw gang working for the Confederacy, as well as for itself, often dressed as Indians 2) real Indians(Lakota Sioux), who sometimes object to the building of the line through what they consider their hunting grounds. In contrast, historically, construction apparently went smoothly, being completed in only 3 summer months. However, the line was constructed out of Chicago, instead of Missouri to hopefully avoid interference from Confederate sympathizers, and in the years after it was built, there was occasional sabotage by Native Americans. Also, strangely, historically, construction toward the east and west BEGAN, rather than ended, at Salt Lake City, not at Omaha, as dramatized. This is in contrast to the first transcontinental railway. This was a rudimentary single iron wire system. Near the end of the decade, a multi-wired system was constructed along the path of the transcontinental railway, presumably using the railway to haul equipment and provide shelter for the workmen, thus making construction much easier.

Robert Young was a curious choice as first-billed. Clearly, it's much more Randy Scott's picture. Perhaps this was because Young's character wasn't tainted with a history of outlawry, as was Scott's, and because he survives to the end of the film, whereas Scott's character doesn't. In any case, Young seemed rather out of place in a western, usually playing aristocratic urbane characters. Although Scott sometimes played urbane characters, mainly in the '30s, he was also a well-established western character. Dean Jagger, as Creighton, serves as the chief engineer and office boss, to Scott's main role as field boss and trouble shooter. Scott opens the film, a lone rider, with a posse on his tail some distance away, riding through a bison herd(looks dangerous), before discovering an injured Creighton, whom he helps get to a stage outpost to rest up.

Veteran comedian Slim Summerville serves as the unlucky and reluctant "Cookie", whose culinary efforts sometimes are destroyed by bumpy wagon rides, invading Indians, etc.. In an Indians attack, a stray bullet puts a hole in his pot of boiling water, spouting a leak that burns his hind side. Chill Wills and John Carridine are also sometimes present to add a bit of authenticity and humor. Virginia Gilmore serves as the romantic interest for both Scott and Young, humor included when they separately show up at the office where she is in the evening to do a bit of flirting, and find the other there. However, there's no hint of a serious romance developing, even at film's end. Young(or presumably his stuntman) also provides some humor when he wants to impress the westerners with his horse-handling skill in riding the worst bucking bronco in the town coral. He stays on for a wild ride around the coral, followed by a ride down the main street of Omaha, into and out of a saloon.

Scott's character is one of those ambiguous persons that the Hays Commission hated, who straddles the fence between the 'good' and 'bad' guys, trying to go straight, but bothered by his old outlaw buddies, who could spill the beans on his past to his employer. Scott spends most of the film reluctantly deflecting blame from them for vanishing cattle or horses or unexplained fires and "Indian" attacks. But finally, he, as well as Creighton, has had enough, and he goes gunning for the outlaws, including his brother, who is the leader. This episode is the finale of the film.

This film was released just 2 years after Cecil DeMille's related epic film "Union Pacific", which is based on the building of the first transcontinental railroad, which occurred a few years after the building of this telegraph system. Of course, this project took years, instead of a few summer months, to finish. Sometimes, these two films get confused in people's minds because of the rather similar subject and common word "union" in their 2 word title. I think "Union Pacific" is the more interesting of the two.

Reviewed by ma-cortes 8 / 10

Historical and lavish Western involving stubborn promoters who carry out the telegraph route from Omaha to Salt Lake City

A spectacular and mighty adventure during the Civil War when America's destiny rode in the saddle bags of adventurers and hard-working laborers installing the poles and cable . The ¨Western Union¨ feats were similarly developed to ¨Pony Express¨ that was a mail service delivering messages , newspapers , mail , and small packages from St. Joseph , Missouri , across the Great Plains , over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada to Sacramento , California , by horseback , and hardy riders , using a series of relay stations and it reduced the time for messages . It became from April 3 , 1860, to October 1861 , the West's most direct means of east–west communication before the telegraph was established and being vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the United States . Later on , ¨Pony Express¨ was replaced by the telegraph , and ¨Western Union¨ quickly became romanticized and became part of the lore of the American West . ¨Pony Express¨ , stagecoach and freight company ¨Wells Fargo¨ provided secure US mail service until the construction of telegraph lines proceeded by ¨Western Union¨. It was seen as evidence of rugged American individualism of the Frontier times . This movie concerns Vance Shaw (Randolph Scott) gives up outlawing , he meets Edward Creighton (Dean Jagger) who leads the construction of the Western Union to unite East with West ; the latter hires Vance and a tenderfoot Eastern surveyor as well as engineer from Harvard , Richard Blake (Robert Young) . Both of whom become romantically involved with the Edward's sister (Viginia Gilmore) . Meanwhile , some outlaws (Barton MacLane) attempting to prevent the company connecting the line and robbing the Western Union cattle masked of Indians Ogalaya .

This traditional Western of the founding of telegraph routes westward contains thrills , rousing action , frontier adventure , shootouts , Indian attacks and exuberant outdoors . This vintage epic Western turns out to be a throughly entertaining picture that will appeal to Western fans . Big budget Western by Darryl F Zanuck's 20th Century Fox , and even studio publicity noted that Fox contract star Henry Fonda -though uncredited- had served as technical adviser on the film, due to his experience as a young man working as a lineman . Dealing with the political machinations and fights that accompanied the construction of the glamorous ¨Western Union¨ route from Omaha , Nebraska , to Salt Lake City , Utah , in which brave riders battling hostile Indians , cutthroats attempting on robbing , firing , astute bandits and many other things . Screenwriter Robert Carson utilized the title , but not the screenplay , of a Zane Grey novel . The main protagonists result to known players , such as Randolph Scott as a Western reformed outlaw , Robert Young as an obstinate surveyor and Dean Jagger as manager . Support cast is frankly magnificent , such as : John Carradine , Chill Wills , Barton MacLane , Slim Summerville , Charles Middleton and the ordinary Indians : Chief John Big Tree , Chief Thundercloud , Iron Eyes Cody , Jay Silverheels .

The film displays a brilliant cinematography by expert cameraman Edward Cronjager in rich Technicolor . In addition , thrilling and evocative musical score by David Buttolph . The motion picture produced by Harry Joe Brown and Darryl F Zanuck was compellingly directed by Fritz Lang and with great enthusiasm . This was Lang's second Western , following his favorite ¨The return of Frank James¨ . The German Fritz showed himself a master of the most American of genres , yet made only one more Western : ¨Rancho Notorious¨. As Lang directed masterfully all kind of genres as Noir cinema as ¨Big heat¨ , ¨Scarlet Street¨ and ¨Beyond a reasonable doubt¨ , Epic as ¨Nibelungs¨, suspense as ¨Secret beyond the door¨ , ¨Clash by night¨ and Lang's trilogy about Nazi time as ¨Cloak and dagger¨, ¨Man hunt¨ and ¨Hangmen also die¨, and of course , Sci-Fi with the classic ¨Metropolis¨. Rating Western Union : Better than average . Well worth watching .

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