How the West Was Won (1963) - John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall
Just as the Hollywood of the thirties believed that prestige was everything, in the 50's and 60's Hollywood came to regard big budgets as great films. 1963 continued the trend, with 3 of the films approaching or exceeding the three hour mark, and all but one of them a period picture. How the West Was Won was Hollywood's final send off for the genre that gave so much justification to techinicolor in its early days. It also continued the trend of The Longest Day and Around the World in 80 Days with an all star spectacle, a subgenre that would carry into the seventies as well. Produced in Cinerama the first thing anyone will notice is that the screen is divided into three sections much like Abel Gance's innovative widescreen process in Napoleon. This serves as distraction, because the contrast between the three sides doesn't always match up, and a blatantly obvious line separates them. Divided into 5 sections there is no clear "Ford's section" or "Marshall's section", but you're led to believe that to handle a project of this magnitude several hands were necessary. Even by cast you can't quite tell, considering Widmark worked with Ford and Hathaway, Stewart worked with all three, and on it goes. With a cast like this it is easy to suceed. Sometimes the film tries to accomplish too much, but what a raucous send off. The very next year, Sergio Leone would direct A Fistful of Dollars, which permantently altered the face of Westerns. Here however is one last grand salute. Despite the nearly three hour running time, there really isn't a moment in the film where it drags. Each story gets to its point and gets their fast, hard to think that a film of this size could leave you actually wanting more.
*How the West Was Won was nominated for best picture, best sound, best original screenplay, best color costume design, best score, best color cinematography, and best color art direction.