In Variety, John Dempsey reports that Warner Bros. has remastered – at a reported “healthy seven figures” – MGM's Academy Award-nominated Western How the West Was Won (1963), which was originally shot in the three-panel Cinerama format.
The film is composed of five separate segments directed by John Ford (“The Civil War”), Henry Hathaway (“The Rivers,” “The Plains,” and “The Outlaws”), and George Marshall (“The Railroad”). An uncredited Richard Thorpe handled the transitional historical sequences. James R. Webb penned the screenplay, which was “suggested” by a series of articles published in Life.
The stellar cast includes Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, John Wayne, James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Thelma Ritter, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Eli Wallach, Lee J. Cobb, Brigid Bazlen, Raymond Massey, Agnes Moorehead, Russ Tamblyn, David Brian, Andy Devine, and Walter Brennan. Spencer Tracy provided the narration.
Needless to say, I've seen How the West Was Won only in its truncated format, with clearly visible “join lines” and somewhat faded color. Considering that neither the film's storylines nor the performances are what one would call impressive, watching How the West Was Won minus its original aesthetic grandeur wasn't the greatest of cinematic experiences, to put it mildly.
How the West Was Won received a total of 8 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, winning three of those: best editing (Harold F. Kress), best sound (Franklin Milton), and – absurdly – best original screenplay (James R. Webb). (Among the original screenplay losers were Federico Fellini's 8½ and Nanni Loy's The Four Days of Naples.)
The restored version has been sold for an exclusive run on the Starz network Encore Westerns. It will premiere on August 30, along with a letterbox version on Encore HD on Demand. The Blu-ray DVD of the new version will come out on September 9.
That same day, the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles will screen the original version, with three projected images on three separate screens.