The ‘idiot drunk’ producer of How the West Was Won, his near-death experience, and the battle to finish the epic.
The hugely ambitious production of HOW THE WEST WAS WON went way over budget, nearly lost its final segment, and saw a stuntman lose his leg.
Henry Hathaway, the director of John Wayne’s Western epic with tons of stars from Henry Fonda and James Stewart to Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck, lamented difficult producer Sol Siegel on a storyline set over three generations and starred everyone from Henry Fonda and James Stewart to Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck.
In 1962, MGM released its most ambitious Western yet, directed by Henry Hathaway, John Ford, and George Marshall.
How the West Was Won featured a 24-star ensemble cast in a five-part blockbuster set over 50 years and shot in three-lens Cinerama for projection on massive curved screens.
The huge hit received a lot of positive press and eight Oscar nominations, but it almost lost its ending, which showed how the West was won.
One of the most difficult aspects of the Western was having three directors: Henry Hathaway, John Ford, and George Marshall.
Ford, who directed the American Civil War scene, which featured a cameo from John Wayne as General Sherman, complained about having to dress the massive sets and struggled with the Cinerama filming process, which required much wider shots than the single-camera method he was used to.
“That damned Cinerama,” said Hathaway, who directed three of the film’s five chapters.
Do you realize a waist-shot with that thing is the closest you can get?”
This method of filming also required the actors to be artificially captured and out of sync with one another.
The characters would not synchronize until the three-print Cinerama process was projected onto curved screens.
How the West Was Won was a “goddamn trouble” for Hathaway, who later directed Wayne in Duke’s only Oscar-winning film, True Grit.
“They had an idiot for a producer, and Sol Siegel was drunk most of the time,” Ronald L Davis writes in his book Just Making Movies.
We spent so much money on the picture that they almost didn’t finish it.
‘You can’t quit,’ I said at a meeting.
You must demonstrate how the West was conquered.
When the law took over, the West was won.'”
But these weren’t the only problems the epic Hollywood epic had to deal with during production.
How the West Won the Battle of the Pacific.
“News from the Brinkwire.”