How the West Was Won's ‘idiot drunk’ producer, near-death and fight to complete the epic

by 24britishtvJan. 8, 2022, 5 p.m. 17
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Back in 1962, MGM released its biggest Western yet, helmed by three directors in Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall. How the West Was Won had an ensemble cast of no less than 24 stars in a lengthy blockbuster of five parts, set over 50 years, and captured on three-lens Cinerama for projection on enormous curved screens. The huge hit saw widespread critical claim and eight Oscar nominations but almost lost its ending that actually showed how the West was won.

One of the Western’s biggest difficulties was having three directors in Henry Hathaway, John Ford and Marshall.

Ford, who helmed the American Civil War scene with a cameo from John Wayne as General Sherman, complained about having to dress the huge sets, struggling with the Cinerama filming process since it meant for much wider shots than the standard single-camera way of shooting he was used to.

Hathaway, who directed three of five chapters was quoted as saying: “That damned Cinerama. Do you know a waist-shot is as close as you can get with that thing?”

This way of shooting also meant the actors had to be captured artificially and out of sync with each other. It was only when the three-print Cinerama process was projected onto curved screens that the characters would synchronise.

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