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William A. Wellman
Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Hope Emerson
Writing Credits:
Charles Schnee

A trail guide escorts a group of women from Chicago to California to marry men who recently settled there.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 8/29/2023

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Scott Eyman
• 1952 Radio Broadcast
• Vintage Featurette
• 2 Animated Shorts
• Trailer


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Westward the Women [Blu-Ray] (1951)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 26, 2023)

Titles don’t get much clunkier than Westward the Women. Still, this accurately implies the 1951 film offers a female-centered Western, so I suppose I shouldn’t gripe too much.

Set in 1851, Roy Whitman (John McIntire) operates a farm in a newly-settled part of California. Because the workers show a severe majority of men, he goes east to enlist 150 women to move west and potentially marry his workers.

Whitman hires trail leader Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor) to take the ladies on this journey. Along the way, the wagon train encounters plenty of obstacles – and perhaps inevitably, Buck finds possible love himself.

Maybe I should strike that “perhaps” from the last sentence. With a story such as this – and a strapping leading man like Taylor involved – the likelihood the main male won’t connect romantically with one of this huge horde of women becomes statistically impossible.

Which might not seem as annoying if Westward didn’t make the identity of Buck’s love connection obvious. From the minute we meet French showgirl Fifi Danon (Denise Darcel) and see how irritated she appears to make Buck, we know where matters will lead.

Despite this and other predictable elements, Westward manages to create a decent Western. In particular, it gets a boost from its unusual premise and focus.

Women don’t tend to act as the primary element in many Westerns, much less a cast heavily dominated by them. The manner in which Westward goes down that path gives the movie an unusual charge.

Otherwise, I find it difficult to pinpoint anything else noteworthy about Westward, though this doesn’t mean I feel the movie flops. Indeed, it provides a perfectly serviceable genre effort.

Westward just doesn’t elevate above that level, and it can seem oddly unfocused at times. In particular, the Buck/Fifi relationship receives surprisingly little exposition.

As noted, viewers can figure out quickly that those two will connect. Perhaps the filmmakers realized the audience would get ahead of the characters and felt they didn’t need to develop the link.

Whatever the case, Westward really does seem to avoid shared scenes between Buck and Fifi for much of the movie. When they do eventually get together, the pairing feels unearned since they didn’t spend all that much time with each other.

Rather than focus on Buck and Fifi, Westward casts a broad – and pretty melodramatic – net. It spreads the love among the female roles, sometimes mainly to evoke emotion down the road.

Still, Westward manages to create surprisingly strong characters among its ladies, and it allows them to prosper. No one here gets especially three-dimensional treatment, but the film allows them room to stand.

All of this leads to a perfectly adequate Western. Outside of its gender-based twist, it brings nothing fresh, but it seems more than competent and ends up as a reasonably engaging affair.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Westward the Women appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a positive presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked fine. Occasional shots felt a bit on the soft side, but these stayed in the minority, so the film largely appeared accurate.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to mar the proceedings. Grain seemed light but natural, and print flaws never popped up along the way.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows appeared smooth. I wouldn’t call this a dazzling image, but it held up more than fine.

While the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack showed its age, it still came across as more than acceptable given its age. Speech occasionally betrayed some sibilance and the lines tended to feel tinny, but they appeared perfectly intelligible.

Effects also showed somewhat metallic tones, but they lacked distortion and seemed appropriate for recordings from 1951. Little score accompanied the tale, but when it did, the music showed reasonable clarity. The audio seemed suitable for a film of this one’s vintage.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Scott Eyman. He provides a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, genre domains, production details and his thoughts about the film.

Don’t expect Eyman to remain particularly screen-specific. While his remarks sporadically reflect what we see, he usually ignores the film’s action.

And that works for me, as Eyman delivers an engaging view of the subject matter. He mixes basics about various participants with info about the shoot to turn this into a solid commentary.

Another audio feature, we find a December 29 1952 Lux Radio Theater version of Westward. It runs 49 minutes, 14 seconds and brings back Robert Taylor and Denise Darcel to reprise their movie roles.

Of course, the radio show cuts out a lot of the movie’s story, and we lose/diminish many characters. This works fine, especially because it spotlights the Buck/Fifi relationship in a manner that feels more organic. This becomes a pretty good adaptation.

Called Challenge of the Wilderness, a vintage circa 1951 featurette spans 10 minutes, 30 seconds. Magazine editor Pete Dailey introduces the piece and we then follow an unnamed female journalist as she reports on the movie’s shoot.

Much of this leans toward promotion for the film, of course. Nonetheless, “Challenge” gives us a pretty decent view of the production and offers a worthwhile reel.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we conclude with two animated shorts: 1950’s Texas Tom (6:44) and 1952’s The Duck Doctor (7:03). Both offer Tom and Jerry affairs.

Texas ties to Westward due to its own Western theme, but the inclusion of Doctor - in which Tom attempts to shoot birds – makes less sense. That said, Doctor offers the superior short, so I won’t complain too much.

Much of Westward the Women follows standard Western tropes. However, its unusual focus on female characters gives it a bit extra charge and offers a twist. The Blu-ray brings good picture and audio along with a nice assortment of bonus materials. Expect a perfectly decent Western.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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