Westward the Women (1951) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday February, 22 at 6:00 p.m. est. Closed captioned.
Robert Taylor and John McIntire interview the women who want to go west.
John McIntire approaches wagonmaster Robert Taylor with an interesting job and challenge. He wants to bring brides west to the settlement he’s founded in [California]. Taylor hires on a bunch of hands to escort the women and issues a no fraternization policy. When one of them tries to rape [a woman], [Taylor] shoots him out of hand. It’s the unsettled frontier and as wagonmaster he’s the law on that train as much as a captain on a ship at sea. Of course the hands mutiny and strand Taylor, McIntire, cook Henry Nakamura and the women.
This was a perfect western film for the post Rosie the Riveter generation. No reason at all why women couldn’t deal with the rigors of a wagon train. Of course it helped to have the formidable Hope Emerson along.
Of course men and women will be men and women and Taylor breaks his own no fraternization policy with Denise Darcel. Of course this is away from the train when Darcel runs off.
William Wellman delivers us a no frills unsentimental western with gritty performances by Robert Taylor and the rest of the cast. In a bow to his colleague John Ford, Wellman does have a courtship dance at the settlement. I liked the use of the fiddle music playing “Believe Me With All Those Endearing Young Charms” and “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.”: Ford couldn’t have staged it better.
Henry Nakamura had made a big hit in MGM’s “Go For Broke” about the Nisei division in Italy. He was a funny little guy, I’m not sure he was even five feet tall. I loved the scene when he and Taylor find a stash of buried liquor and proceed [to go] on a toot. This was his last film though, roles for Oriental players were hard to come by. I wonder whatever happened to him.
If you like traditional cowboy films, this one ain’t for you, but given the constraints of 19th century society for the role of woman Westward the Women is quite a revelation. Review by bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York for the IMDb..
Some behind-the-scenes photos:
From left: William Wellman and Robert Taylor; Mr. Taylor outside of his dressing room.
From left: Polly Burrows and Robert Taylor; Mr. Taylor with sound technician Voss.
Spoiler Alert ~ You wrote ~ “This was a perfect western film for the post Rosie the Riveter generation. No reason at all why women couldn’t deal with the rigors of a wagon train.”
Perhaps in real life that may have been true, but not necessarily in the Hollywood movie making business. Stuntman Jack N. Young who doubled for Bob on this movie and until very recently was a Facebook “friend” of mine but has now since passed at 92 I think he was had a few very funny anecdotes to pass along about those frontier “women” in all but the close shots.They were actually all stunt “men” dressed in women’s costumes.
Jack Young had a more important function in this movie doubling for Bob Taylor in scenes where Bob’s face couldn’t be seen and in between takes he would tease his fellow stuntmen and tell them how “pretty” they all looked and asked if any of them would like to go out on a date?
This was one of Bob Taylor’s best “riding” movies for me personally. I always knew him as a good rider (for those 7 years I worked on his ranch) but in this one and in another one called, “The Miracle of the White Stallions”, he really showed his true horsemanship. He did most of his own riding on those Lipizzaner stallions which is no small accomplishment for anyone to stay on board.
Al, as always, great to hear from you. i did know that a lot of the “women” were men, but it doesn’t change the message. Thanks for telling me about Jack N. Young. It would be fascinating to hear his anecdotes. I’d love to know more about the Lipizzaner situation. Someone has written that they had to find an old, tame horse for Mr. Taylor. This doesn’t fit with what I’ve seen of his riding in other films, including “Return of the Gunfighter.” Thanks so much for your insights.
My favorite movie of #RobertTaylors. I have my DVR set. I might buy the movie… just to see the beginning of how the movie was made. My Cousin has 10 horses & her daughter does Rodeo. She won a saddle last year and beat out the boys. I always love Robert Taylor in Westerns & in Military movies.
Jack N Young… I noticed his son teaches at University of Arizona and sent a message to him on Facebook… He still has not read it. I just asked him about his Father Jack and Robert Taylor.
Thank you for all you do on this website for Robert Taylor Fans & memories…
Thanks, Becky, again for writing. I like Mr. Taylor in Westerns too. I have a personal fondness for “Return of the Gunfighter.” If you hear anything from Jack N. Young’s son, please let me know. Judith p.s. Good for your cousin’s daughter!
Hi Judith… ck this out >>> “Lux Radio Theater” broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on December 29, 1952 with Robert Taylor reprising his film role. >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcTPAvvFzQg
Becky, did you hear the broadcast? The movie was so visual (I just rewatched it) that I wonder how they could pull it off. They probably eliminated the whole “Quackenbush” subplot, which I enjoyed. I’ve heard one or two other broadcasts of movies and they had to cut such a lot. They’re still good, though. Judith
Hi Judith… yes I listened to the broadcast last night… It was kinda cool how they get the actors/actresses to come back & do the Radio show. Yes they left the Quackenbush out… I loved it as well…
I guess the radio show helped to promote the movie, Becky,because Mr. Taylor did a lot of them. Search for “radio” on this blog and you’ll find a few. Judith
Hi Judith… yes I saw many of those Robert Taylor radio shows on websites to listen to..
Thank you…. Becky
My degree is in Health/Biomechanics/Physiology…. observing from Quo Vadis in the heat/overseas to making Westward The Women…. Looks like #RobertTaylor did trim down. Might have helped him transition to doing Westward The Women, because that was on location, heat, travel ,etc…. Suits him just fine!
Becky, I did notice that Mr. Taylor looked especially slim in “Westward the Women.” I just didn’t think of the heat. Interesting. Judith
Hi Judith… I always like to look at when they director substituted #RobertTaylors stuntman(Jack N. Young) into some of the more tough scenes… I can tell i the whip action scene(some portions it is Jack N. Young) because his pants were more stacked/longer on his boots…. Robert Taylor’s pants were a bit shorter…
You have a sharp eye, Becky. I do try to notice when a stunt double is used but missed this one. Judith