The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Far Horizons

Certain stories are synonymous with Manifest Destiny, the idea that Americans were supposed to move across the country and settle the land, with maybe the most well known story being that of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It's too bad then that the only movie made on the subject was such a bust, 1955's The Far Horizons. Just about all school kids know the story of Lewis and Clark and their expeditionary party being helped out by a Shoshone woman, Sacagewea. Now of all the actresses in the 1950s, who would be the most unlikely one to play the young Indian girl? If you guessed Donna Reed, you're a winner!

The surprising thing is that Reed isn't even the most distracting aspect of the movie. Her performance is actually pretty good, even if she looks ridiculous. That casting has to rank up there with John Wayne as Genghis Khan or Omar Sharif as Che Guevara as the most bizarre to ever come out of Hollywood. What was the worst part of the movie was Fred MacMurray as Meriwether Lewis. Talk about a wooden actor. This role could have been played by any number of people, Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, anybody but MacMurray who just seems out of place.

His counterpart, William Clark, is perfectly cast with Charlton Heston filling those shoes. Heston made a career out of big, lavish historical epics and period pieces, and for good reason, his performances were always very strong whether it be as Moses or Michelangelo. But the movie plays loosely with historical fact, which isn't a sure deal-breaker, but so much could have been done with the story. Prior to leaving, Clark proposes to Julia Hamilton, who Lewis has been a friend with for years and is sweet on. She accepts and so the tension begins.

Along the trail after meeting Sacagewea, Clark starts to fall for her, making Lewis mad at him for falling in love and at the same time forgetting about his fiance back in Washington. That's right, one of the best stories in American history has turned into a love triangle, a completely inaccurate one at that. It's just an odd movie from beginning to end. I'm a sucker for historical period pieces, but this one is not worth it. Watch "Horizons" for the gorgeous location shooting in Grand Teton National Park, but don't expect much else.

The Far Horizons (1955): **/****

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