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The Great American West cover photo

The Great American West 1995 (film) 2010 (DVD)


Distributed by Janson Media, 88 Semmons Road, Harrington Park, NJ 07640; 201-784-8488
Produced by Scott Swofford
Directed by Reed Smoot
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - Adult
American Studies, American West

Date Entered: 06/04/2010

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

This big screen production gives the viewer a very broad sweep of the American West beginning with Napoleon’s sale of France’s Louisiana Territory to the late 19th century. The shots are big and beautiful and will not do well on a small (for these days) TV. The story is somewhat sparse : it begins with Napoleon thinking that he had taken in Jefferson for selling the French lands in North America, switches to Lewis and Clark, then a gathering of Mountain Men, Mormons heading west, a gold prospector in California, then a bit on the Nez Perce, then… The scenes are not connected well and really have no depth, but it certainly does look beautiful with Robards’ skilled narration being a plus. Those with BIG TVs will appreciate the views. An added bonus is a short picture show, with musical accompaniment but no narration, of paintings by such famous artists as Bierstadt, Catlin, Remington, and N.C. Wyeth. Some background on the artists and their work would have added to this show. Hopefully, those who have little knowledge of the history of the West beyond the Mississippi will have their curiosity piqued.