Wagon MasterThough hard to you this journey may appear...
The film looks like it was shot around Moab and Arches National Park, so there are no Monument Valley Mitten Butte sightings. That landmark in the back is as close as I could get. I think I saw it on several occasions from many different angles.
Conjecturing here, but I'm wondering if the story's roots are from the 1879 San Juan Expedition, or as it's better known, the Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition
. Instead of trying to recreate with exact details, it may have been used as a broad template for a general concept of a pioneer wagon train. It's a good thing too. The film only touches on the digging that had to be done to make some of the terrain passable. Here's a picture of the path cut into the Slick Rocks.
And, even John Ford, who made some pretty gutsy and dangerous shots in the movie, would know better than to recreate the descent through the Hole-in-the-Rock fissure.
No one's that crazy, well except for the Mormon pioneers.
The film also isn't interested so much in those details either--just another template to show disparate groups traveling together and the dynamics that surface. The only things that seem amiss are the women who look more like puritans than pioneers and the men not carrying firearms (though it's useful to the plot). They do get the singing and dancing right. Speaking of which, The Sons of the Pioneers
should sing in all Westerns.
They're swell. I also like when the characters break out in song on a few occasions. John Ford knows what he's doing when it comes to music. He also has a great eye for telling a story visually. I'm not saying anything that's not better known and understood by Ford aficionados, but as a novice, I notice and am impressed.
Wagon Master isn't a big story and even the climax isn't more than a passing glance, but it is an interesting story, or I should stories. Each of the characters is worth more time than is allotted. The film has the look and feel of a type of embedded journalism assignment, where you get to walk among the participants and see things up close and personal. I'm more than happy to have taken this assignment.
Now I'm trying to conjecture what kind of fines/jail time would be accrued for a film cast and crew knocking down formations in a National Park.