Western Union (1941 American History Western film)

Directed by Fritz Lang and starring Robert Young, Randolph Scott, and Dean Jagger. Filmed in Technicolor on location in Arizona and Utah, in Western Union Scott plays a reformed outlaw who tries to make good by joining the team wiring the Great Plains for telegraph service in 1861. Conflicts arise between the man and his former gang, as well as between the team stringing the wires and the Native Americans through whose land the new lines must run. In this regard, the film is not historically accurate; Edward Creighton was known for his honest and humane treatment of the tribes along the right of way and this was rewarded on the part of the Indians by their trust and cooperation with Creighton and his workers. The installation of telegraph wires was met with protest from no one. The film is based on the novel Western Union by Zane Grey, although there are significant differences between the two plots. Plot While surveying a telegraph line in 1861, Western Union engineer Edward Creighton (Dean Jagger) is severely injured in an accident. He is discovered by Vance Shaw (Randolph Scott), an outlaw on the run from a posse. Forced to travel on foot after his horse was hurt, Shaw at first considers stealing Creighton’s horse, but changes his mind and takes the man with him, saving his life. Sometime later, following his recovery, Creighton returns to Omaha, Nebraska and plans the construction of a telegraph line from Omaha to Salt Lake City, Utah. Facing considerable opposition to the line from Confederate soldiers, Indians, and outlaws, Creighton elicits the help of his sister Sue (Virginia Gilmore), foreman Pat Grogan (Minor Watson), and assistant Homer Kettle (Chill Wills). Looking to put his outlaw past behind him, Shaw arrives at Creighton’s Western Union office looking for honest work and is hired as a scout by Grogan who is unaware of his past. Creighton recognizes him among the men and allows him to stay despite his suspicions. Creighton also hires tenderfoot Richard Blake (Robert Young), a Harvard-educated engineer as a favor to Blake’s father. Shaw and Blake are both attracted to Sue and vie for her attention, but their romantic rivalry is cut short when construction of the telegraph line starts on July 4, 1861. After work commences on the line, one of the men is killed apparently by a mysterious band of cattle-rustling Indians. Unconvinced that Indians are to blame, Shaw rides out to investigate and follows the rustlers’ trail to the camp of Jack Slade, a former friend and cohort, whose gang committed the killing disguised as Indians—the gang Shaw left following his last bank robbery. Slade reveals that they are working for the Confederacy to disrupt Western Union because they believe the telegraph service will help the Union. Shaw rides away and returns to the line. Not wanting to turn in his former friends, Shaw tells Creighton that a large band of Dakota Indians stole the cattle, and recommends that they simply replace the herd and not risk a fight with the Indians. Cast Robert Young as Richard Blake Randolph Scott as Vance Shaw Dean Jagger as Edward Creighton Virginia Gilmore as Sue Creighton John Carradine as Doc Murdoch Barton MacLane as Jack Slade Russell Hicks as Governor Slim Summerville as Cookie Chill Wills as Homer Kettle Victor Kilian as Charlie Minor Watson as Pat Grogan George Chandler as Herb Chief John Big Tree as Chief Spotted Horse Chief Thundercloud as Indian leader Dick Rich as Porky Addison Richards as Capt. Harlow Irving Bacon as Joe the Barber[4] Hank Bell as Telegraph Worker (uncredited) Tom London as Henchman (uncredited) Charles Middleton as Stagecoach Rider (uncredited)

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