After finishing his pirate epic THE BUCCANEER, Cecil B. DeMille was caught in a quandary regarding his next picture. Should it concern planes, ships, or trains? Deciding on trains, he faced another choice: the Union Pacific or the Sante Fe? The producer-director of spectacles reportedly flipped a coin, and UNION PACIFIC landed face up. McCrea stars in...read more
After finishing his pirate epic THE BUCCANEER, Cecil B. DeMille was caught in a quandary regarding his next picture. Should it concern planes, ships, or trains? Deciding on trains, he faced another choice: the Union Pacific or the Sante Fe? The producer-director of spectacles reportedly
flipped a coin, and UNION PACIFIC landed face up.
McCrea stars in this lavishly produced western, playing the supervisor of the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. While on the job, he meets Stanwyck, a tough but feminine postmistress for the railroad. McCrea falls for her; meanwhile, Kolker, a seedy politician with a financial interest
in the rival Central Pacific line, hires crooked gambler Donlevy to delay construction of the line. Aided by Preston, a comrade of McCrea's from the Civil War, Donlevy sets up a gambling den and begins distracting the Union Pacific workers with the prospect of gambling, liquor, and fast women. The
lure of a good time causes havoc at the railroad--as does the robbery of the payroll, performed by Preston. Stanwyck, who has been seeing Preston as well as McCrea, learns that Preston is responsible for the theft and talks him into returning the money. Soon after, the train is attacked by
Indians. Stanwyck holds her ground to fight alongside McCrea and Preston, and it looks as though they will all be slaughtered. Will the cavalry arrive in time?
UNION PACIFIC is a big, sprawling western epic produced with the usual DeMille
extravagance and eye for detail. DeMille gained the cooperation of the Union
Pacific Railroad, which made available heaps of old records and papers
pertaining to the line's construction. In addition to the research material,
the Union Pacific supplied DeMille with vintage trains and experienced crews
to run them. The film was shot on locations in Utah and Oklahoma, and at the
Canoga Park lot in Hollywood, where the reenactment of the golden spike
ceremony was staged. Moreover, the actual golden spike (driven on May 10,
1869) that was used at that ceremony was loaned to the production by Stanford
University and brought to Hollywood in great secrecy. The director had to
undergo an operation during the production, and much of the location shooting
was directed by Arthur Rosson and James Hogan during his absence. When DeMille
returned to the production, he directed from a stretcher and was carried from
set to set by crew members.
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