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In the onscreen credits, the film is subtitled "The Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition." The working titles of this film were Beyond the Blue Horizon, Blue Horizons, Two Captains West, Lewis and Clark, and Sacajawea of the Shoshones. As depicted in the film, Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), a captain in the U.S. Army, became secretary to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801. Under Jefferson's direction, Lewis planned an expedition to explore the land west of the Mississippi River, forging a route to the Pacific Ocean. With his friend, Lt. William Clark (1770-1838), Lewis and his expedition left Missouri in May 1804 and reached Oregon's coast in November 1805. After wintering in Oregon, the expedition headed back east in March 1806, reaching St. Louis in September 1806. In addition to being the official commander of the expedition, Lewis served as naturalist, collecting plant, animal and mineral specimens. Clark functioned as record keeper and mapmaker. In 1807, Jefferson named Lewis governor of the Louisiana Territory. After Lewis died in 1809, a victim of either suicide or murder, Clark became responsible for the publication of the expedition's journals. Lewis never married, while Clark was twice married.
Sacajawea (sometimes translated as "Birdwoman") of the Shoshoni tribe, not only guided the expedition throughout much of its 8,000 mile journey, but also acted as a diplomat to some fifty tribes encountered by the explorers. Unlike in the film, when she joined the expedition, she was already married to Canadian trapper Toussaint Charbonneau, who accompanied her on the journey. In 1998, the U.S. Mint honored Sacajawea with her own one-dollar coin. The tribe referred to in the film as Minitari is more commonly known as the Hidatsa tribe.
A Los Angeles Times news item dated April 30, 1953 reported that producers Pine and Thomas were negotiating with M-G-M to have Leslie Caron play "Sacajawea." Location filming took place near Jackson Hole, WY, according to contemporary sources. As noted in late July 1954 Hollywood Reporter news items, during location filming, Donna Reed was rushed by plane from Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City for emergency surgery, but was back on the set two days later. Hollywood Reporter news items add Judy Tyler and BooBoo Scharf to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. The picture was re-released in 1961 as Untamed West.