Wagon Master (1950)

Perhaps the most optimistic film made by John Ford, Wagon Master is a celebration of the American dream through the backdrop of the western frontier.  Centering on a Mormon wagon train heading out west to escape persecution, Wagon Master operates as an extended metaphor for the need for societal and religious tolerance; Ford portrays his ensemble of Mormon pioneers, horse traders, and brothel keepers as a hopeful crew seeking to build a new community based on diversity, altruism, and pacifism (it’s also the rare Ford film that depicts Native Americans in a benevolent and peaceful light).  If the western often symbolized the need for institutions and bureaucracy in America, Wagon Master is amongst the genre’s most positive and upbeat pieces; it’s as beautiful film to simply look at as it is to follow the narrative.

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