Kendal B. Hunter | Provo, UT United States | 03/19/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an interesting film. You have to admit that Mormonism is quite an American phenomenon, and Brigham Young is quite an American. He was one of the great trailblazers, and after seeing the 2002 Olympics, you must admit that there was something going on here beyond mere spiritual skullduggery.This film was made with an "arm's distance" approval of the hierarchy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, for some reason, Mormon prophet David O. McKay had a quite cordial relationship with Cecil B. DeMille, and the great filmmaker willed Brigham Young University his papers.This is quite an interesting film, and has many of the conventions of the era. Porter Rockwell is played as comic relief rather than the rough and tumble mountain man's mountain man that he was. Vincent Price makes an interesting Joseph Smith, with that eerie twinge to his voice giving a sense of mystery. Tyrone Power did a wonderful job of breathing life into a man who was larger than life, and Linda Darnell isn't overwhelmed by her role or her character.The sets are a major part of the film. You can almost taste the trail dust. Filming on location adds to the power of the film, and the black and white gives the film an Ansel Adams feel. You see the long trails across the long plains, plus the ragged Rocky Mountains. While they were filming, there was an actual outbreak of crickets in Nevada, so they sent a camera crew out, and you are seeing the real thing!True to all historical fiction, this film's history is subservient to the fiction. For those wanting the facts, I suggest Leonard Arrington's aptly-titled "Brigham Young: American Moses." For a sample of his theology, there is "Discourses of Brigham Young," compiled by John A Widtsoe.The film in itself is a good, especially for the AMC and Turner Classics fans that like films that wisely omit the salacious sex, machine gun profanity, or scene after scene of computer generated effects that glitz in an attempt to cover up a feeble story line. This is good, solid Americana film that hearkens back to the days of pre-cause-oriented Hollywood."
Good Trek Movie
Kendal B. Hunter | 06/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having given up on Hollywood's latest offerings, which are over-produced, over-digitalized, over-sexed, over-cussed, and over-violent, I am now exploring movies made before my time, in a kinder, gentler era. As such, I enjoyed Brigham Young very much. Although it is true that much of the story is not historically accurate, the descriptive comments that overlay the movie explain each departure from fact, and the reasons that it was done. As I knew something about the LDS church and its history, I was not disappointed or shocked to learn, e.g., that Brigham and Joseph Smith did not meet in the place depicted in the movie. The spirit of the story is well-retained, from the early persecutions of the Mormons to the settling of the Great Salt Lake Valley. The movie is well-cast and well-acted. I especially liked Dean Jagger as Brigham, and Linda Darnell as Zina - what a surprise to learn that she was only 16 at the time! She more than holds her own in scenes with far more experienced actors.It is not true that the subject of polygamy is mentioned only once. It is confronted several times, including as the subject of a fierce argument between Linda Darnell and Tyrone Power. Brigham admits to having 12 wives at the time of the trek (he had 27, count 'em, by the end of his life), and there are other allusions to polygamy, e.g., the frequent presence of his second wife alongside his first. The script presents the viewer with a "this is how it was" attitude. You may decide whether you approve or disapprove.Having the comments version available after we watched the movie greatly enhanced our understanding of the history. The comments include some interesting details about location filming and casting decisions. I was amazed to learn that the locust scenes were actually filmed during a locust invasion in Nevada, and that this was a grueling experience for the cast and crew. Those are real bugs! I was also amused to hear that the depiction of Joseph Smith's murder was very controversial. It was considered extremely violent, and the director fought not to have it edited. The average TV cop show today is infinitely rougher than anything in this flick!All in all, a very nice movie for a pleasant evening, with some popcorn and an open mind."
Definitely worth watching, but not all true to the facts
R. C. Harris Jr. | Oslo, Norway | 03/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Considering that this movie was made in 1939 and 1940 it is an amazing achievement. The special effects are quite impressive for the time: The birds-eye view of the wagons leaving Nauvoo with the temple in center screen, Crossing the Missouri frozen river, Nauvoo homes and temple burning in the background across the river, all of the wagons and oxen crossing plains, rivers, climbing mountains, etc. But especially the near-final scene of the locusts and the seagulls (which were mostly all real).
Dean Jagger does a remarkable job as Brigham Young. He resembles him closely and even has a similar voice, according to a crew-member who was hired for coaching because he knew Brigham personally, and was around 16 when Brigham died in 1877 (50 years before filming this picture). Interesting trivia note: Dean Jagger was not LDS when he made this film but later married a Mormon woman and subsequently joined the church.
Vincent Price respected Joseph Smith greatly and had great reverence and admiration for him while playing the role of the prophet. His screentime is minimal but he does a fine job (in spite of being 10 years older than the man he was portraying).
The LDS first presidency approved the script, even though it veered from the truth on many points. They did this because they agreed that it helped make the picture more dramatic and exciting. Personally, I would prefer historical accuracy over romance or excitement, but that's how it was back then. Successful movies had a sort of recipe, and they wanted this one to follow that recipe as close as it could.
But all-in-all it paints an accurate picture of America in the 1840's and 50's and the trek of the early Mormon pioneers.
I recommend it, but if you can, watch the excellent commentary afterwards. It clears up fact from fiction and is very enlightening.
Film: 3 stars DVD extras: 4 stars Weighted average score: 4 stars"
ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES
a viewer | antioch, tn United States | 08/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this film. I am not a Mormon. I am a Catholic. I have great respect for the Mormon faith because of their values. Though, true, this film is historically inaccurate, the production values are first rate! It is true that the Mormons were run out of every town they tried to settle in. It is beyond reproach the way these people were treated just because "they were Mormons". The cinematography is superb!! The musical score in unforgettable and the acting is excellent, particularly Vincent Price as Joseph Smith. Jane Darwell has another memorable mother role as Eliza Kent. The struggles portrayed during their pioneering movement is inspiring and edifying. The DVD transfer is excellent and there are some nice extras in here namely, a great commentary and an A&E biography of Linda Darnell. Truly a great, inspirational film, no matter what your faith is!!"
5 Stars for James D'Arc's comments
JLS | 11/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is not historically accurate, so it's important to watch the movie twice and listen to James D'Arc's comments during one viewing of the movie. He explains which scenes are for drama and why they were shown that way. He explains the true account of the trek west. In fact, I felt that his comments were far more valuable than the movie itself. The cricket scene is especially moving as he tells how the people in the scene were not acting when they fought those crickets. It was horrible and some did not think it was worth the money to be in that scene. However, as in the historical account of the Mormon Crickets, the seagulls came to their rescue after a prayer for help was said. Even though the movie is not completely accurate, it's still a touching drama."