Union Pacific (1939)

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    • Union Pacific (1939)




      Plot Summary
      One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau; Campeau's partner Dick Allen is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost?
      Written by Rod Crawford

      Barbara Stanwyck ... Mollie Monahan
      Joel McCrea ... Jeff Butler
      Akim Tamiroff ... Fiesta
      Robert Preston ... Dick Allen
      Lynne Overman ... Leach Overmile
      Brian Donlevy ... Sid Campeau
      Robert Barrat ... Duke Ring
      Anthony Quinn ... Cordray
      Stanley Ridges ... General Casement
      Henry Kolker ... Asa M. Barrows
      Francis McDonald ... General Dodge
      Willard Robertson ... Oakes Ames
      Harold Goodwin ... Calvin
      Evelyn Keyes ... Mrs. Calvin
      Richard Lane ... Sam Reed
      William Haade ... Dusky Clayton
      Regis Toomey ... Paddy O'Rourke
      J.M. Kerrigan ... Monahan
      Fuzzy Knight ... Cookie
      Harry Woods ... Al Brett
      Lon Chaney Jr. ... DollarhideJoseph Crehan ...
      General Ulysses S. Grant
      Julia Faye ... Mame
      Sheila Darcy ... Rose
      Ward Bond ... Tracklayer (uncredited)
      Iron Eyes Cody ... Indian (uncredited)
      James Flavin ... Paddy (uncredited)
      Russell Hicks ... Sergeant (uncredited)
      Jack Pennick ... Harmonicist (uncredited)
      and many more...

      Cecil B. DeMille

      Writing Credits
      Walter DeLeon ... (screen play) &
      C. Gardner Sullivan ... (screen play) and
      Jesse Lasky Jr. ... (screen play)
      Jack Cunningham ... (adaptation)
      Ernest Haycox ... (story)(novel) (uncredited)
      Frederick Hazlitt Brennan ... (contributor to treatment) (uncredited).
      Jeanie Macpherson ... (contributor to screenplay construction) (uncredited)
      Stanley Rauh ... (uncredited)

      Cecil B. DeMille ... producer
      William LeBaron ... executive producer
      William H. Pine ... associate producer

      Sigmund Krumgold
      John Leipold
      Gerard Carbonara ... (uncredited)
      Leo Shuken ... (uncredited)
      Victor Young ... (uncredited)

      Victor Milner ... (photographed by)

      The gold spike used at the ceremony to mark the end of the construction was the same spike actually used in the May 10, 1869 event, on loan from Stanford University.

      According to a news item in the Hollywood Reporter, Cecil B. DeMille directed much of the film from a stretcher, because of an operation he had months earlier. However, studio records indicate DeMille collapsed from the strain of directing three units simultaneously, and used a stretcher for about two weeks.

      For the Indian attack on the train, Paramount hired 100 Navajo Indian extras.

      The world premiere in Omaha, Nebraska, was a three-day celebration that drew 250,000 people, doubling the population of the city and requiring the National Guard to help keep order. The special train en route from Hollywood to Omaha, carrying Cecil B. DeMille and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, took three days and made stops along the way, drawing large crowds. The film was shown in three theaters simultaneously; President Franklin D. Roosevelt was reported to have started the premiere proceedings by pressing a button in Washington, DC, which opened the civic auditorium. An ad stated that the premiere, which involved parades, radio broadcasts and a banquet, was the biggest in motion picture history. An antique train continued on a 15-day coast-to-coast promotional tour, stopping at 30 cities around the country.

      The company had rented many local pinto horses for the filming of the Indian attack on the train. During filming, however, local cowboys had to be hired to round up the horses, as they would scatter and sometimes stampede because of the noise and confusion of these scenes--all the shooting, yelling, and yards of unfamiliar cloth on the horses, along with kettles and other implements tied to their manes and tails, made them extremely nervous and uncomfortable, and it didn't require much to make them bolt.

      In order to operate the number of trains required by the production, Paramount had to get a regulation railroad operating license from the Interstate Commerce Commission.

      One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since. It was released on DVD 23 May 2006 as one of five titles in Universal's Cecil B. De Mille Collection, and since that time, has also enjoyed occasional airings on cable TV on Turner Classic Movies.

      Dick Allen (Robert Preston) asks, "Where does he keep his 'Rule G'?", meaning a bottle of whiskey. This is a reference to Rule G: "The use of intoxicants or narcotics is prohibited", one of 12 rules in standard code adopted by the Association of American Railroads.

      One of the railroad men ticks off a list of things that had been deemed "impossible," one of them being Moses' parting of the Red Sea--a winking reference to Cecil B. DeMille's earlier film The Ten Commandments (1923).

      According to Lucius Beebe's book "Union Pacific" the gold spike was not "driven" in. Since a spike made from gold would be much too soft to drive into a railroad tie the spike was "driven" into a hole drilled in a specially prepared tie. This was done both in reality and for the movie. Following the ceremony the spike was pulled out (by hand) and a new tie was put down and an iron spike driven in.

      Nearly all the antique railroad equipment used in the film was purchased by Paramount from the Virginia & Truckee Railroad in Nevada. It was used in a number of other western films over the years, and sold off in the 1970s when the popularity of westerns dwindled. The majority of it is now preserved at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.

      Robert Preston, who played important roles in several Cecil B. DeMille productions, not only disliked the director personally but felt he was inept at directing actors. The scene where Preston, Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea are trapped in the boxcar took two weeks to film and, according to Preston, DeMille had nothing but "Action," "Cut," and "Print" to say to the actors. He didn't seem to care about scenes that did not include action or spectacle. When Preston became a bigger star, he turned down offers to appear in other DeMille films and avoided any relationship or contact with him.

      Cecil B. DeMille claimed he discovered Robert Preston while he was a parking valet at the Santa Anita race track and that this was his first movie. In reality Preston had been in a few movies and dozens of plays.

      Lon Chaney Jr and Joel McCrea attended the same high school

      After the train wreck, and during all the scenes that immediately follow, Barbara Stanwyck suddenly appears with a very stylish 1939 bobbed hairstyle which we had not seen before, and which, of course, is completely inappropriate to the time period during which the story is taking place.

      All handguns shown are the Colt Single-Action Army Model of 1873. The Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point in 1869, four years before this revolver model was made.

      Position of Mollie's left arm when Jeff starts to read his letter on the handcar.

      When Jeff meets Dick at his hiding place and asks for a light, the match Dick hands him is unlit, then suddenly flaming.

      Errors in geography
      The chase sequence after the train robbery is shown in mountainous terrain. The robbery supposedly takes place between Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs Wyoming (from geographic references to the train's location in the telegrapher's office). There are no mountains in this area.

      Factual errors
      The golden spike ceremony shown in the movie is not true. The golden spike was lowered into an auger hole not driven. Gold is a soft metal and striking it as they did in the movie would have severely damaged it. The original golden spike now at Stanford University shows no mallet marks on the head.

      Memorable Quotes

      Filming Locations
      Cache, Oklahoma, USA
      Cedar City, Utah, USA (indian attack)
      Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA
      Iron Spring, Cedar City, Utah, USA (replica of Cheyenne, Wyoming)
      Kanab, Utah, USA
      Paramount Ranch - 2813 Cornell Road, Agoura, California, USA (golden spike ceremony)
      Sierra Railroad, Jamestown, California, USA
      Sonora, California, USA
      Stockton, California, USA

      Watch the Movie

      [extendedmedia] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1V8t9pFcE0 [/extendedmedia]
      Best Wishes
      London- England
    • Union Pacific is a 1939 American dramatic western film directed by
      Cecil B. DeMille, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea.
      Based on the novel Trouble Shooter by Western fiction author Ernest Haycox,
      the film is about the building of the railroad across the American West.

      The 1862 Pacific Railroad Act signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad westward across the wilderness toward California, but financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau. Campeau's partner Dick Allen is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost?

      Historical context
      Union Pacific was released in 1939 two months after John Ford's Stagecoach, which film historians consider responsible for transforming the Hollywood Western from "a mostly low budget, B film affair." Wheeler M. Dixon, for example, notes that after the appearance of these two films (Union Pacific and Stagecoach), the western was something worthy of adult attention and serious criticism, and therefore a yardstick against which all westerns have been subsequently measured.[1

      DeMille's film indeed took the genre to a new level, considering issues of national unity in an engaging and entertaining manner at a time when nationalism was an increasing public concern. Michael Coyne accordingly characterizes Union Pacific as a "technological nation-linking endeavor" in his book The Crowded Prairie: American National Identity In the Hollywood Western.The spirit of unification in the film parallels the industrial boom that brought the United States out of the Great Depression at the onset of World War II, and, although the U.S. would not become involved in the war until 1941, the films emphasis on national unity typifies the nationalistic sentiment that would become much stronger once the country was at war.

      Apart from Barbara Stanwyck, look out for Duke 'Pals'
      Brian Donlevy, Anthony Quinn, Lon Chaney Jr.,
      Ward Bond, James Flavin, Russell Hicks, Jack Pennick

      User Review

      There's nothing like hearing an engine whistle in the still night.
      16 June 2011 | by Spikeopath (United Kingdom)

      spike wrote:

      Union Pacific is directed by Cecil B. DeMille (aided by others due to illness) and based upon the novel Trouble Shooter, written by Ernest Haycox. It stars Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, Akim Tamiroff and Lynne Overman. Story is a fictionalised account of the building of the railroad across the American West, encompassing the trials, tribulations and rivalries that formed as history was being made.

      "The legend of Union Pacific is the drama of a nation, young, tough, prodigal and invincible, conquering with an iron highroad the endless reaches of the West. For the West is America's Empire, and only yesterday Union Pacific was the West".

      A big production that went down a storm at the box office on release, Union Pacific, in spite of its overt patriotic bluster, is an entertaining and important part of the Western movie story. Alongside John Ford's Stagecoach, which was released a couple of months previously, DeMille's movie helped take the Western to a new, more adult, level. It wouldn't be until the 50's that the Western truly found its mojo, but the influence of both Stagecoach and Union Pacific was firmly felt thru each passing decade. Film manages to be literate whilst puncturing the plot with doses of action, while the story is underpinned by a love triangle between McCrea, Stanwyck and Preston. The former as the stoic troubleshooter brought in to keep order, the latter as the charming villain with a heart. Cast all work well with the material to hand, and if one is not bothered by the historical tampering involved in the story? Then it's an easy film to recommend to Western movie seekers. 7/10
      Best Wishes
      London- England

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