How The West Was Won: Film Analysis

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Inspired by a photo essay in Life magazine, How the West Was Won was a massive undertaking to create. Encompassing the multiple eras of the American West from the settling of the Ohio country to the construction of the railroad, this film manages to ground its scope via the members of a single family. In addition, the Cinerama process allowed for the scale of the story to be displayed across multiple screens. The expense of the project came near $15,000,000 which is enormous considering many classical Westerns were considered b-pictures made cheaply and quickly. How the West Was Won was and still is an outlier within the history of cinema. The Western genre began almost simultaneously with the settling of the frontier, but these stories focused on individuals or small groups of people. In contrast, the epic is vast with numerous characters and a story that has far reaching consequences. Each part of How the West Was Won could easily have been standalone and typical Westerns, however, the innovation is in combining the disparate stories into a single mythology of the Wild West. This mythology was used to rationalize in some way the taking of the frontier during the era of Manifest Destiny expansionism.…show more content…
The popularity of Westerns at the time surely contributed to its success as well as critical reviews of the time praising its production. Typical westerns stayed within a single geographic space when made while this production traveled the entire country in order to be made. However, like the rest of the genre How the West Was Won, has less direct impact on contemporary audiences due to the steady decline in popularity over time with brief flourishes of popularity. As a result, How the West Was Won likely signifies the high mark of the Western’s acceptance with the initial impact of the genre trickling over into other genres like science
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