James Cruze

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1922) di Emerson Hough. Scen.: Jack Cunningham, Walter Woods. F.: Karl Brown. M.: Dorothy Arzner. Scgf.: Tom White. Int.: J. Warren Kerrigan (Will Banion), Lois Wilson (Molly Wingate), Ernest Torrence (Jackson), Charles Ogle (Jesse Wingate), Ethel Wales (signora Wingate), Alan Hale (Sam Woodhull), Tully Marshall (Jim Bridger), Guy Oliver (Joe Dunstan/Kit Carson), John Fox (Jed Wingate). Prod.: Famous Players-Lasky Corp.. DCP. D.: 98’. Bn

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Few silent westerns claimed as much authenticity as James Cruze’s pioneer saga The Covered Wagon, filmed using dozens of original Conestoga wagons rented from locals allegedly at a rate of $2 a day, plus feed for the horses. Cruze shot the film in California, but also in Nevada and Utah, while former cowboy star Tim McCoy recruited extras from the Northern Arapaho Nation in the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. As a result, this episodic tale of life on the Oregon Trail bursts with life and incident, as Will Banion (veteran star J. Warren Kerrigan) leads the wagons west, beset by infighting, bad weather, native hostility and the lure of the California Gold Rush.
The shoot itself was a test of resilience. “I loved every minute of making The Covered Wagon,” star Lois Wilson told Kevin Brownlow. “It was an adventure. Oh we were cold, but I don’t think the film would have been as good if we weren’t uncomfortable and if we hadn’t run into unexpected circumstances.” When the shoot was stricken with snow, script editor Walter Woods simply incorporated a blizzard into the story.
This generously budgeted adaptation ($782,000) of Emersons Hough’s novel was a volley in Cruze’s campaign to elevate the genre from mass entertainment to epic drama, and set a precedent for prestige westerns to come. The film was shot by Karl Brown and cut by promising young editor Dorothy Arzner, who was on location for the shoot, acting as “sort of the right hand” to Cruze during filming. Their future collaborations provided the platform from which she launched her own career as a director.
The Covered Wagon was released on 16 March 1923 and proved to be the second highest-grossing film at the US box office that year. Its most famous admirer was President Warren G. Harding, who arranged a special screening at the White House that summer. “Variety” pronounced it “the biggest thing that the screen can boast of having to offer the public in a decade”.

Pamela Hutchinson

Copy From

courtesy of Park Circus. Restored in 2017 by Paramount Pictures at Technicolor laboratory from a 35mm safety dupe negative preserved at the Paramount Archives and an incomplete 35mm nitrate print preserved at the Library of Congress