Wagon Master (1950)

85-86 mins | Western | 22 April 1950

Director:

John Ford

Cinematographer:

Bert Glennon

Editor:

Jack Murray

Production Designer:

James Basevi

Production Company:

Argosy Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

Many sources list this film's title as Wagonmaster , although it appears as two words in the onscreen credits. Many sources list the song "Shadows in the Dust" as either "Rollin' in the Dust" or "Rollin' Shadows in the Dust." In addition to the above listed songs, excerpts from the hymn "Come, Come All Ye Saints" are heard in the film. According to HR news items, most of the picture was shot in eastern Utah. Early location shooting was done in Monument Valley, thirty-two miles northeast of Moab, UT, where the Wagon Master company was based. Other exteriors were filmed at the headwaters of the Colorado River. (Modern sources list Fisher Canyon, north of Professor Valley, and Spanish Valley as additional, specific location sites.) HR notes that seventy-five "locals" acted as extras. Although HR reported in late Dec 1949 that Argosy and RKO were negotiating a new "multiple picture distribution deal," Wagon Master was the last Argosy production to be released by RKO.
       According to modern sources, director John Ford wrote the original story for the picture. In a modern interview, Ford said of the film: " Wagon Master came closest to what I had hoped to achieve." Despite Ford's enthusiasm, the picture received mixed reactions from the critics and was not as successful as his "cavalry trilogy," which was released around the same time (see above entry for Fort Apache ). According to modern sources, the film lost $65,000 at the box office. Modern sources credit Ford's daughter, Barbara Ford, as assistant editor and Cliff Lyons, who appears in ... More Less

Many sources list this film's title as Wagonmaster , although it appears as two words in the onscreen credits. Many sources list the song "Shadows in the Dust" as either "Rollin' in the Dust" or "Rollin' Shadows in the Dust." In addition to the above listed songs, excerpts from the hymn "Come, Come All Ye Saints" are heard in the film. According to HR news items, most of the picture was shot in eastern Utah. Early location shooting was done in Monument Valley, thirty-two miles northeast of Moab, UT, where the Wagon Master company was based. Other exteriors were filmed at the headwaters of the Colorado River. (Modern sources list Fisher Canyon, north of Professor Valley, and Spanish Valley as additional, specific location sites.) HR notes that seventy-five "locals" acted as extras. Although HR reported in late Dec 1949 that Argosy and RKO were negotiating a new "multiple picture distribution deal," Wagon Master was the last Argosy production to be released by RKO.
       According to modern sources, director John Ford wrote the original story for the picture. In a modern interview, Ford said of the film: " Wagon Master came closest to what I had hoped to achieve." Despite Ford's enthusiasm, the picture received mixed reactions from the critics and was not as successful as his "cavalry trilogy," which was released around the same time (see above entry for Fort Apache ). According to modern sources, the film lost $65,000 at the box office. Modern sources credit Ford's daughter, Barbara Ford, as assistant editor and Cliff Lyons, who appears in the film as the marshal, as second unit director. In addition, modern sources add Chuck Hayward to the cast. The television series Wagon Train , which aired from 1957 to 1965 on the ABC network and featured Ward Bond as a wagon master, was very loosely based on Wagon Master . After Bond died in 1961, John McIntire took over his role. Ford directed one episode of the popular series entitled "The Colter Craven Story." More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Apr 1950.
---
Daily Variety
5 Apr 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
10 Apr 50
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 49
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 49
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 49
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 50
p. 3-4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Apr 50
p. 253.
New York Times
19 Jun 50
p. 17.
Variety
12 Apr 50
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Properties
COSTUMES
Men's ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair dresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Cost research
SOURCES
SONGS
"Shadows in the Dust," "Song of the Wagon Master," "Wagons West" and "Chuckawalla Swing," words and music by Stan Jones.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Wagonmaster
Release Date:
22 April 1950
Production Date:
14 November--mid December 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Argosy Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
19 April 1950
Copyright Number:
LP94
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85-86
Length(in feet):
7,695
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14314
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1800s, horse traders Travis Blue and Sandy Owens lead a herd of horses they have captured into the southwestern town of Crystal City, hoping to sell the animals for a good profit. After talking the town's unsuspecting marshal into buying one of their wild horses, Travis and Sandy are approached by two Mormons, the irreverent Jonathan Wiggs and the pious Adam Perkins. Upon learning that the traders are familiar with the region, Wiggs tries to hire them as wagon masters for his small band of Mormon settlers, who are headed for the San Juan Valley in Utah. Anxious to gamble in town, the men at first decline the offer, but later change their minds and join the Mormons, who have been forced to leave Crystal City because of their religion. Not far into the desert, the Mormon group comes across a troupe of stranded medicine show performers, who ran out of water after being driven out of Crystal City and have been drinking their own "elixir" for three days. Although Adam disapproves of the intoxicated troupe--leader Dr. A. Locksley Hall and assistants Floretty "Florey" Phyffe, Mr. Peachtree and young, pretty Denver--Wiggs sympathizes with their plight. Describing their chance meeting with the California-bound troupe as an act of God, Wiggs persuades Adam to allow the performers to ride along with the group. As the emigrants push farther into the desert, their water supplies begin to dwindle, and Travis orders everyone, including the feisty Denver, to conserve. Finally, however, Sandy locates a river, and the thirsty group rushes for relief. That night, a dance is held in camp, giving Travis a ... +


In the mid-1800s, horse traders Travis Blue and Sandy Owens lead a herd of horses they have captured into the southwestern town of Crystal City, hoping to sell the animals for a good profit. After talking the town's unsuspecting marshal into buying one of their wild horses, Travis and Sandy are approached by two Mormons, the irreverent Jonathan Wiggs and the pious Adam Perkins. Upon learning that the traders are familiar with the region, Wiggs tries to hire them as wagon masters for his small band of Mormon settlers, who are headed for the San Juan Valley in Utah. Anxious to gamble in town, the men at first decline the offer, but later change their minds and join the Mormons, who have been forced to leave Crystal City because of their religion. Not far into the desert, the Mormon group comes across a troupe of stranded medicine show performers, who ran out of water after being driven out of Crystal City and have been drinking their own "elixir" for three days. Although Adam disapproves of the intoxicated troupe--leader Dr. A. Locksley Hall and assistants Floretty "Florey" Phyffe, Mr. Peachtree and young, pretty Denver--Wiggs sympathizes with their plight. Describing their chance meeting with the California-bound troupe as an act of God, Wiggs persuades Adam to allow the performers to ride along with the group. As the emigrants push farther into the desert, their water supplies begin to dwindle, and Travis orders everyone, including the feisty Denver, to conserve. Finally, however, Sandy locates a river, and the thirsty group rushes for relief. That night, a dance is held in camp, giving Travis a chance to romance Denver, while Sandy woos Adam's daughter Prudence. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of the Clegg family, five fugitive outlaws led by coldblooded killer Uncle Shiloh. Although the smooth-talking Shiloh, who was shot in the shoulder during a murderous holdup, claims that he and his "boys"--brothers Luke, Reese, Jesse and Floyd-- are cowboys, Travis, Sandy and Wiggs know their true identity. To protect the group, however, Travis, Sandy and Wiggs decide to allow the outlaws to travel with them. When Shiloh learns that there is a "doctor" in the group, he orders Hall at gunpoint to remove the bullet from his shoulder. Later, while searching for an alternate route, Travis is pursued by a band of Navajo braves. The Indians chase Travis back to the group, but upon learning that the emigrants are Mormon, their chief invites them all to their camp that night. During the "squaw dance," an Indian woman accuses Reese of attacking her, and Wiggs immediately orders the outlaw to be flogged by his followers. Although Shiloh resents the punishment, he permits it to go on to avoid trouble. Soon after, at the California cutoff, the medicine show troupe says goodbye to the Mormons. Before they get very far, however, Travis proposes to Denver, but is rejected. The troupe's wagon is then stopped by Shiloh, who orders them at gunpoint to return to the wagon train, where they can be watched. Determined to avoid capture by the marshal's posse, Shiloh announces to the entire wagon train that he and his boys will continue on with them until they reach the San Juan Valley. As anticipated, the marshal and his posse come to question the train, and the outlaws hide in various wagons, holding guns to the backs of the Mormons until the posse leaves. That night, Wiggs, Sandy and Travis discuss the final leg of their journey, which involves traversing steep, rocky terrain. Sandy, who has gotten a gun from Prudence's young brother, then argues with Travis about dealing with the outlaws, but the gun-shy Travis declines to act until the Mormons are safely delivered. The next day, the men dig a fresh trail over the rocks, and all of the wagons except the heavy grain wagon make the crossing. To avenge Reese's flogging, Shiloh, who has overheard Wiggs say that their grain is "more valuable than gold," orders the elder to drive the grain wagon, whose horses Floyd intends to scare into a deadly run. Before Floyd carries out his orders, however, Sandy draws his gun and shoots him. Travis shoots and kills the remaining brothers, then outdraws the sneaky Shiloh. With their enemies dead, the Mormons continue to the beautiful San Juan Valley, where Sandy finally kisses Prudence, and Travis reunites with Denver. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.