Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ted & Cecil

I have not watched TV much in the last two months and none at all in the last two weeks.  

So, imagine my euphoria when I did sleepily push the power button Thursday night and I saw that, within a few minutes, the Turner movie channel would show Union Pacific. The last--and only time--I had ever seen this thundering Cecil B. DeMille classic was over thirty years ago. And I never forgot it; imagined I would never see it again in this lifetime. But....God Bless Ted Turner.

If the "Golden Age" of Hollywood was the 1930s and 40s, the Golden Year was 1939. Jesse James, Dodge City, Gone With the Wind, Young Mister Lincoln, Stagecoach, Drums Along the Mohawk....and those are just some of my '39 favorites with a Western theme. Throw in The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Roaring Twenties, Gunga Din, and Goodbye Mr. Chips, and you see why it was such a stellar year. Add Union Pacific to the list.

With literally a cast of thousands, with sets that are right out of the period, with costuming as accurate as any movie ever made, before or since, and with a wonderful script and plot that holds you throughout, the film is pure DeMille. Then add an incredible cast. Joel McCrey as the hero, Barbara Stanwyck (below) as the saucy Irish engineer's daughter that every one loves, Robert Preston as the formula-villain who proves his mettle in the end, the leering Brian Donlevey who proves nothing in the end except that he is still a wretch, his hired gun and card shill, a young Anthony Quinn....there are already enough headliners to ensure box office bullion.

But in typical, epical DeMille fashion, Union Pacific tells a mighty story--The Winning of the West. From the brawny Irish gandydancers who brawl their way through one Hell-On-Wheels after another, to the young Indian warriors (real Indians) who imagine they can halt the Iron Horse by shooting arrows into it, this is one movie that everyone who loves the Old West must see.