Perhaps because it chooses to make heroes of a couple of ordinary, second-string cowhands (Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr.) rather than John Wayne or Henry Fonda, this utterly delightful, lyrical Western is one of director John Ford's least appreciated masterpieces. With a score of traditional ballads sung by the Sons Of The Pioneers and lovely black-and-white photography of Ford's favoured desert locations, the film simply follows a Mormon wagon train on their long trek West. Johnson and Carey sign up as guides/trouble-shooters, and are challenged by bad weather, dissent in the ranks, the disturbing presence of theatrical gal Joanne Dru and a band of outlaw varmints up to no good. Johnson, a rodeo star, gets to show off his riding skills, while Carey is a master of fresh-faced hat-scratching.
Wagon Master Review
19 Apr 1950
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