Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Wagon Master (1950)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Wagon Master (1950)

In John Ford's low-key, lesser-known, lyrical western (and character study) about the dangers and hostilities faced by westward pioneers while crossing the rugged prairie - an inspiration for the Wagon Train (1957–1965) TV series:

  • the opening pre-credits sequence of a murderous robbery, committed by the Clegg robber gang of five, led by Uncle Shiloh Clegg (Charles Kemper) - seen on a 'Wanted for Murder' poster
  • the plot: in 1879, a wagon train of about sixty pioneering Mormons, led by patriarch Elder Jonathan Wiggs (Ward Bond), from Crystal City to beyond the San Juan River in SE Utah (The Promised Land)
  • the two horse traders (or "wagonmasters") hired to lead the Mormon group: Travis Blue (Ben Johnson) and Sandy Owens (Harry Carey, Jr.)
  • the many other characters, including: the stranded members of a traveling medicine show enroute to California - snake oil Dr. A. Locksley Hall (Alan Mowbray), heavy drinking Fleuretty "Florey" Phyffe (Ruth Clifford), and "hoochie coochie" showgirl "prostitute" Denver (Joanne Dru)
  • the sequence of a festive song and square dance in the middle of the prairie, featuring the song "The Chuck-A-Walla-Swing" (by the Sons of the Pioneers) - interrupted by the arrival of the Clegg gang; and a pow-wow "squaw dance" with Navajo Indians
  • the violent shoot-out end to the Cleggs, after one of the sons Reese Clegg (Fred Libby) raped a Navajo woman (Movita Castaneda), and another cold-bloodedly shot the grain wagon driver
  • the romances that developed: Travis with Denver, and Sandy and Mormon girl Prudence Perkins (Kathleen O'Malley)


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