The Covered Wagon (1923)

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    • The Covered Wagon (1923)




      Plot Summary
      Two wagon caravans converge at what is now Kansas City, and combine for the westward push to Oregon. On their quest the pilgrims will experience desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and indian attack. To complicate matters further, a love triangle develops, as pretty Molly must chose between Sam, a brute, and Will, the dashing captain of the other caravan. Can Will overcome the skeleton in his closet and win Molly's heart?
      Written by Thomas McWilliams

      J. Warren Kerrigan ... Will Banion
      Lois Wilson ... Molly Wingate
      Alan Hale ... Sam Woodhull
      Ernest Torrence ... William Jackson
      Tully Marshall ... Jim Bridger
      Ethel Wales ... Mrs. Wingate
      Charles Ogle ... Jesse Wingate
      Guy Oliver ... Kit Carson
      Johnny Fox ... Jed Wingate
      and many more...

      James Cruze

      Writing Credits
      Emerson Hough ... (novel)
      Jack Cunningham ... (adaptation)
      Jesse L. Lasky ... producer

      Manny Baer ... (uncredited)
      Hugo Riesenfeld ... (uncredited)
      J.S. Zamecnik ... (uncredited)

      Karl Brown

      Although there are scenes that show huge buffalo herds with what looks like thousands of animals, large buffalo herds didn't exist at the time this film was made (1923). The buffalo had been hunted almost to extinction during the late 19th century, with millions of them being slaughtered, and its numbers hadn't yet increased enough to comprise large herds. Cameraman Karl Brown used small lead castings of various sizes of buffalo, placed the larger ones toward the camera and used diminishing sizes in the background for depth. All the castings were mounted on a series of moving chains, those in the rear moving very slowly while the rows of chains moved increasingly faster as they neared the foreground. The castings were hinged so that they moved with an undulating motion, which made them appear to be actual buffalo running. The chains were placed out of view and the mechanical buffalo were placed in front of a painted background containing distant buffalo. The result was a scene of "thousands" of buffalo, when in reality most of them were basically statues.

      In an early cut of this film prior to its release, director James Cruze appeared in a brief cameo heavily disguised as an Indian. Screenwriter Jack Cunningham wrote him a memo saying that, even if viewers didn't recognize him from his days as an actor, he looked too "white" alongside the genuine Indians who appeared in the film. Cunningham prevailed, and the scene was deleted.

      J. Warren Kerrigan had fallen out of favor with the industry by the time he was cast in this film. James Cruze, with who he had a long friendship and professional relationship, cast him more or less as a favor.

      To get enough covered wagons for the film, a call went out in California to families that still had their ancestors' covered wagon which had brought them out west - these were gathered so wagons used were authentic - perhaps repaired a bit.

      It has been claimed, particularly by South Africans, that there are too many similarities between this and De Voortrekkers (1916) to be coincidental.

      Lois Wilson was extremely impressed by the Native Americans who were hired as extras. "You never had to re-take an Indian shot" she said of how authentic they were.

      A recording of the music for this film was made using the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. Some sources say the entire film was scored and recorded in this process, but other sources say only a couple of reels were recorded as an experiment. See also Bella Donna (1923).

      An attempt to maneuver the covered wagons across a river for one scene resulted in two horses drowning. Lois Wilson said that this incident so upset her that she went back to her tent and couldn't work for the rest of the day.

      For the film's opening weeks in London, a group of real Red Indians was sent over to perform a tableau on the stage at the end of each screening.

      Filming Locations
      Great Basin National Park, Nevada, USA
      Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA
      Garrison Reservoir, Garrison, Utah, USA (River Crossing Scene)
      Garrison, Utah, USA (Fort Bridger Scene)
      Garrison, Utah, USA (Indian Attack on Wagon Train Scene)
      Garrison, Utah, USA (River Crossing Scene)
      Iverson Ranch - 1 Iverson Lane, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, USA
      Oregon, USA
      Skull Valley, Nevada, USA
      Snake Valley, Nevada, USA
      Sonora, California, USA

      Watch Some Scenes

      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 6 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • The Covered Wagon (1924)

      The Covered Wagon is a 1923 American silent Western film released by Paramount Pictures.
      The film was directed by James Cruze based on a novel by Emerson Hough
      about a group of pioneers traveling through the old West from Kansas to Oregon.

      J. Warren Kerrigan starred as Will Banion and Lois Wilson as Molly Wingate.

      On their quest they experience desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and Indian attack

      Cast notes
      Tim McCoy, as Technical Advisor, recruited the Indians who appeared in this movie.Production
      The film was a major production for its time, with an estimate budget of $782,000.

      In his 1983 book Classics of the Silent Cinema, radio and TV host Joe Franklin claimed this film was
      "the first American epic not directed by Griffith"

      In the 1980 documentary Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Cinema, Jesse L. Laskey Jr. maintained that the goal of director James Cruze was " ... to elevate the Western, which had always been sort of a potboiler kind of film, to the status of an epic"

      The film required a large cast and film crew and many extras, and was filmed in various locations, including Palm Springs, California, and several places in Nevada and Utah.
      The dramatic buffalo hunt and buffalo stampede scenes were filmed on Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah. During filming for the movie, seven bison from the Antelope Island Bison Herd were shot and killed.

      The covered wagons gathered by Paramount from all over the Southwest were not replicas, but the real wagons that had brought the pioneers west. They were cherished heirlooms of the families who owned them. The producers offered the owners $2 a day and feed for their stock if they would bring the wagons for the movie. Most of the extras seen on film are the families who owned the covered wagons and were perfectly at home driving them and living out of them during the production

      The film premiered in New York City on 16 March 1923 and ran 98 minutes. A musical soundtrack was recorded in the short-lived DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process, but sources vary on whether this record soundtrack was of the entire score or about two reels worth of the film. The Phonofilm version of the film was only shown this way at the premiere at the Rivoli Theater in New York City.[12] Paramount reportedly also released Bella Donna on 1 April 1923 with a Phonofilm soundtrack, also only at the premiere at the Rivoli.

      The film was the most popular movie of 1923 in the US and Canada.

      This was also Warren Harding's favourite film as he showed it at a special screening at the White House during the summer of 1923.

      The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

      2001: AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – Nominated

      User Review

      The Long, Long Trail
      15 August 2014 | by lugonian (Kissimmee, Florida)

      lug wrote:

      THE COVERED WAGON (Paramount, 1923), directed by James Cruze, is a western, a large scale western, in fact, was reportedly one that became the inspiration of future western epics of similar theme and nature, consisting of hero, heroin, villain, two old scouts for comedy flavor, Indians, cattle, and a large assortment of movie extras for authentic feel to the pioneering days in American history.

      From the novel by Emerson Hough and adapted by Jack Cunningham, the curtain rises presenting the traditional opening credits prior to the introducing inter-titles of what's to be shown: "The blood of America is the blood of pioneers - the blood of lion-hearted men and women who carved a splendid civilization out an uncharted wilderness. With dauntless courage facing unknown perils, the men and women of the "forties" flung the boundaries of the nation. Westward and still westward, beyond the Mississippi, beyond the prairies, beyond the Rockies - until they bounded the United States of America with two oceans." "Westport Landings, 1848, since called Kansas. In May of that year, a great covered wagon caravan gathers together from every section or the Ohio and Missouri valleys, eager to brave the two thousand miles of hardship that lay between Westport and Oregon." Taking part of the 2,000 miles of hardship between Westport and Oregon is Will Banion (J. Warren Kerrigan), veteran of the Mexican War and selected leader of the Liberty Boys. Though engaged to marry Sam Woodhull (Alan Hale), Molly Wingate (Lois Wilson) very much prefers to put off their wedding until after reaching their destination. Suspecting Molly to be in love with Banion, Woodhull does everything possible to discredit him, even to a point of spreading rumors of he being a cattle thief. A violent battle between the two rivals not only causes Molly to not ever wanting to see Banion again, but forcing the traveling caravans to go on their separate ways - Banion taking charge of one group while Molly's father, Jesse Wingate (Charles Ogle) leads the other, each facing their own unforeseen dangers and hardships ahead.

      As westerns being part of American cinema practically from its humble beginnings, with Broncho Billy Anderson, Tom Mix and William S. Hart as legendary names associated in that genre, by today's standards, THE COVERED WAGON, lacks any top marquee names of interest. J. Warren Kerrigan, who slightly resembles the gentle profile of John Boles than a rugged leading he-man type of Kirk Douglas, is one actor who, with an assortment of film roles to his credit, suddenly disappeared from movie making by 1924. Lois Wilson, who never achieved super stardom, resumed further into the sound era, while Alan Hale, the most recognizable face here, would play a variety of character parts until his death in 1950. Overlooking the cliché story and troublesome romantic subplot and Johnny Fox's banjo "singing" of Stephen Foster's "Oh Susannah" on a couple of occasions, this 98 minute epic tale does offer notable highlights of interest, including caravans crossing the deep river, prairie fire, Indian attacks, among others.

      With countless imitations over the years, John Ford's THE IRON HORSE (Fox, 1924), a prime example, Paramount's Zane Grey's based story, FIGHTING CARAVANS (1931) starring Gary Cooper (DVD title: "Blazing Arrows"), bears a strong resemblance to THE COVERED WAGON, especially with the support of COVERED WAGON co-stars Ernest Torrence (Bill Jackson) and Tully Marshall (Jim Bridger) reprising their original named roles.

      Out of the television markets since its public television presentation of the weekly series "The Toy That Grew Up" (WNET, Channel 13, New York City, 1965-1972) where THE COVERED WAGON was severely edited in to fit into its sixty- minute time slot, the film was later restored to its original length, distributed to video cassette in the 1990s equipped with clear picture quality and excellent Gaylord Carter organ score for viewer's enjoyment. Westward Ho!(***)
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 7 times, last by ethanedwards ().