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FAR HORIZONS, THE (director: Rudolph Mate; screenwriters: Winston Miller/Edmund H. North/from the novel Sacajawea of the Shoshones by Della Gould Edmonds; cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp; editor: Frank Bracht; music: Hans Salter; cast: Fred MacMurray (Captain Meriwether Lewis), Charlton Heston (Lt. William Clark), Donna Reed (Sacajawea), Barbara Hale (Julia Hancock), William Demarest (Sgt. Gass), Alan Reed (Charboneau), Herbert Heyes (President Thomas Jefferson), Lester Matthews (Mr. Hancock), Helen Wallace (Mrs. Marsha Hancock); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William H. Pine/William C. Thomas; Paramount; 1955)
“An inaccurate and dull telling of the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition that followed President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An inaccurate and dull telling of the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition that followed President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803. One would do better catching Howard Hawks’s superior The Big Sky (1952). The Far Horizons is based on the novel Sacajawea of the Shoshones by Della Gould Edmonds and is written in a stodgy manner by Winston Miller and Edmund H. North. Director Rudolph Mate (“Union Station”/Second Chance”/ “D.O.A.”) fumbles the directing chores and can’t make things come to life in this pioneering adventure. It mixes some action, history and romance to recreate the historical Wild West into a Hollywood hokum falsification of the mythos. But it was at least beautifully filmed in Vista Vision, in Wyoming.

Capt. Meriwether Lewis (Fred MacMurray), secretary to President Thomas Jefferson (Herbert Heyes), is visiting the home of Congressman Hancock (Lester Matthews), whose lovely daughter Julia (Barbara Hale) he’s about to ask to marry. But before he can, he receives a telegram to immediately return to the White House. Meanwhile his old friend, the Indian fighter Lt. Bill Clark (Charlton Heston), arrives and charms Julia. In Washington, Lewis learns from Jefferson that he’s in charge of a military expedition that is to explore and chart the new territory (500,000 square miles). Furthermore Jefferson orders Lewis to continue even beyond the boundary of the purchase to the Pacific Ocean, in a land no country has claimed.

When Lewis returns to the Hancock Estate to ask Clark to share the command of the expedition, he learns that his friend and Julia have become engaged. Because Clark was unaware of Lewis’ feelings for Julia, the captain forgives him, but it bothers him greatly that he lost the love of his life.

The boys travel through the uncharted frontier with the help of Native American guide Sacajawea (Donna Reed), a Shoshone Indian, someone the racist Clark romances as Lewis pouts. Her presence soon causes the expedition leaders to fall out with each other, as they encounter wary Native Americans who are insurgent, harsh weather conditions, and rugged terrain.

Others in the cast included a flinty Sgt. Cass (William Demarest), with a heavy accent, an untrustworthy French trapper, Charboneau (Alan Reed), and Wild Eagle (Larry Pennell), a scarred brave from Sacajawea’s own tribe who is betrothed to her.

But reality has a different story than the film’s. When the expedition started Sacajawea was already “married” to Charboneau (he bought her) and with child, and was his squaw until her death in 1812. In other words, the tabu inter-racial movie romance between Clark and Sacajawea was pure hogwash. Everything in the film gets mired down in excessive verbiage and in the fictional romance, as the outdoor adventure gets short-changed with a lack of enough action scenes and there are too few scenes of the wonder of discovering a new land. The film is also politically backwards, completely ignoring the genocide that was to follow the exploration of the new land.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”