Westward the Women (1951) is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, November 29 at 8:00 p.m.
This is one of the most unusual Westerns ever!
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: