One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau; Campeau's partner Dick Allen is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost?
There's nothing like hearing an engine whistle in the still night. Union Pacific is directed by Cecil B. DeMille (aided by others due to illness) and based upon the novel Trouble Shooter, written by Ernest Haycox. It stars Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, Akim Tamiroff and Lynne Overman. Story is a fictionalised account of the building of the railroad across the American West, encompassing the trials, tribulations and rivalries that formed as history was being made. "The legend of Union Pacific is the drama of a nation, young, tough, prodigal and invincible, conquering with an iron highroad the endless reaches of the West. For the West is America's Empire, and only yesterday Union Pacific was the West". A big production that went down a storm at the box office upon release, Union Pacific, in spite of its overt patriotic bluster, is an entertaining and important part of the Western movie story. Alongside John Ford's Stagecoach, which was released a couple of months previously, DeMille's movie helped take the Western to a new and more adult level. It wouldn't be until the 50's that the Western truly found its mojo, but the influence of both Stagecoach and Union Pacific was firmly felt through each passing decade. Film manages to be literate whilst puncturing the plot with doses of action, the story underpinned by a love triangle between McCrea, Stanwyck and Preston. The former as the stoic troubleshooter brought in to keep order, the latter as the charming villain with a heart. Cast all work well with the material to hand, and if one is not bothered by the historical tampering involved in the story? Then it's an easy film to recommend to Western movie seekers. 7/10