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Union Pacific

1939 2h 15m Western List
83% Tomatometer 6 Reviews 64% Audience Score 250+ Ratings
Veteran Dick Allen (Robert Preston) and gambler Sid Campeau (Brian Donlevy) plot to derail the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at the behest of crooked banker Asa M. Barrows, a major investor in a competing railroad line who will profit from any delay. Meanwhile, Allen and his old friend, railroad boss Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea), compete for the attention of Mollie Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck), beautiful postmistress and daughter of the railroad engineer. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (6) Critics Reviews
Frank J. Avella Edge Media Network Preston is in a comedy and delivers a hilarious performance. McCrea is in an action-drama and is excellent. Rated: B Aug 19, 2021 Full Review Jeffrey M. Anderson Combustible Celluloid It's a bit graceless compared to other Westerns of the day, especially John Ford's Stagecoach (both were inspired by stories by Ernest Haycox), but it works in a kind of old-fashioned, broad-spirited way. Rated: 3/4 Aug 13, 2021 Full Review Graham Greene The Spectator This latest de Mille epic contains all the Excelsior qualities we expect in his work but it is never as funny as The Crusades and he has lost his touch with crowds, the stamp of a broad, popular genius who used to remind us a little of Frith. May 8, 2018 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Released in 1939 and boasting patriotic zeal, DeMille's empire-building epic is one of his most impressive pictures, with wonderful performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea at their peak. Rated: B+ Aug 15, 2008 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews It has the grand sweep of a DeMille film. Rated: B May 18, 2008 Full Review Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal Rip-snortin', old-fashioned Western, with understated McCrea and hammy Stanwyck a great team. Rated: 4/5 Sep 1, 2006 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Steve D Some stories are better than others but overall strong. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 05/20/23 Full Review Crom W Top railway western movie by Cecil B. DeMille. Great cast and excellent performance by Barbara Stanwyck. Looking forward to seeing it again...a leaning book in the old art of moviemaking. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 04/24/23 Full Review rob k There's plenty here to like. Barbara Stanwyck's excellent acting is the number one reason to seek this film out . Stanwyck especially appealing as a plucky Irish lass willing to face reality squarely in the eyes. The director originally wanted Jean Arthur, who had starred in The Plainsman, for the female lead. Studio publicity also named Irene Dunne as a potential star (alongside Joel McCrea and Fredric March). Instead, Barbara Stanwyck took on the role. She quickly proved herself to DeMille by insisting on doing her own stunts, always arriving on set early and fully prepared and never complaining about difficult location conditions. In his memoirs, he would answer the question most Hollywood directors dread, "Who is your favorite actress?" by writing, "...I have never worked with an actress who was more co-operative, less temperamental, and a better workman, to use my term of highest compliment, than Barbara Stanwyck.... Barbara's name is the first that comes to mind, as one whom a director can always count on to do her work with all her heart". Barbara Stanwyck Barbara Stanwyck (born Ruby Catherine Stevens; July 16, 1907 - January 20, 1990) was an American actress, model, and dancer. A stage, film, and television star, she was known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional for her strong, realistic screen presence. A favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang, and Frank Capra, she made 85 films in 38 years before turning to television. Stanwyck was well praised during her 6 decades in Hollywood. She received four Best Actress nominations. It is widely thought that Stanwyck should have won an Academy Award for Best Actress rather than being just nominated. She received an Honorary Oscar in 1982, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1986 and was the recipient of several other honorary lifetime awards. She was ranked as the 11th greatest female star of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute. Veteran Dick Allen (Robert Preston) and gambler Sid Campeau (Brian Donlevy) plot to derail the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at the behest of crooked banker Asa M. Barrows, a major investor in a competing railroad line who will profit from any delay. Meanwhile, Allen and his old friend, railroad boss Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea), compete for the attention of Mollie Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck), beautiful postmistress and daughter of the railroad engineer. Cecil B. DeMille's sprawling, adventurous film takes on the building of the first trans-continental rail road. The actual building of the track takes second stage to the fates of three employees; Joel McCrea as the Union Pacific hired gun, Robert Preston as his war buddy working with a crooked bank man to stall the proceedings, and Barbara Stanwyck as the mail woman caught in between them for their loyalty and love. The love triangle may be contrived, but the three stars are believable. Preston conveying a surprising amount of sympathy in a colorful good/bad guy, a murderer melodramatically delivered by the love of a good woman. DeMille keeps the 140 minutes moving with exciting action, some wonderful set pieces, two or three exciting finales -- robberies, a train wreck and an enthralling Indian attack. The tale is well-directed, and the cinematography is splendid. The special effects are impressive. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects. In reading about its premier I learned some fascinating trivia ! Apr 1939 Hollywood Reporter news items reported that Union Pacific's world premiere in Omaha, Nebraska was a gala "three-day celebration" that drew crowds of over 250,000, instantly doubling the city's population and requiring the deployment of eight national guard troops to help local authorities maintain order. Large crowds were also said to have gathered at many stops along the train route from Hollywood to Omaha, as it was publicized that a special train carrying, among others, producer and director Cecil B. De Mille, and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, was making its way to Nebraska for the event. The film's premiere took place at three Omaha theaters simultaneously. A 22 Apr 1939 HR news item noted that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was to officially start the premiere proceedings by pressing a button in Washington, D. C. that would open Omaha's civic auditorium. An advertisement in HR claimed that Union Pacific's premiere, which was accompanied by parades, special radio broadcasts and a banquet, was the "biggest world premiere in motion picture history." The ad also notes that following the premiere, De Mille was joined by many of the film's stars aboard an antique train for the continuation of the fifteen-day, coast-to-coast promotional tour, which was scheduled to stop at thirty cities around the country. Now how awesome this adventure would have been to be apart of ! Kino Lorber will bring to Blu-ray Cecil B. DeMille's Union Pacific (1939), starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Akim Tamiroff, Robert Preston, and Lynne Overman. The release is expected to arrive on the market during the summer 2021. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Lynne Overman should have received an oscar for his supporting role. Wonderfully understated as Leach who looked like a man who had a hard life in the West. Another great DeMille movie. Liked Stanwyck in her early roles including Annie Oakly. McCrae a great leading man. Overman was like so many underutilized actors, including Cagney & Si Jenks. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/18/23 Full Review Audience Member The paper thin characters and distracting use of studio sound stages in conjunction with the outdoor photography is a difficult hurtle to get over, but DeMille's genuine zeal for the "unity of the Nation" and an epic scale are undeniably appealing. Not even Barbara Stanwyck's fake Irish accident could bring down her performance. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/07/23 Full Review Audience Member A long epic western in the style and mold of John Fords earlier and better "Iron Horse," with a standard love triangle thrown in. History is treated with the showmanship and scale typical of Cecil B. Demille. Over the top, but all things considered still good. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/20/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Union Pacific

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Movie Info

Synopsis Veteran Dick Allen (Robert Preston) and gambler Sid Campeau (Brian Donlevy) plot to derail the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at the behest of crooked banker Asa M. Barrows, a major investor in a competing railroad line who will profit from any delay. Meanwhile, Allen and his old friend, railroad boss Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea), compete for the attention of Mollie Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck), beautiful postmistress and daughter of the railroad engineer.
Director
Cecil B. DeMille
Producer
Cecil B. DeMille
Screenwriter
Walter DeLeon, C. Gardner Sullivan, Jesse Lasky Jr.
Production Co
Paramount Pictures
Genre
Western
Original Language
English
Release Date (DVD)
May 23, 2006
Runtime
2h 15m