The Far Horizons
Cast & Crew
Capt. Meriwether Lewis, secretary to President Thomas Jefferson, is visiting the home of Congressman Hancock, whose lovely daughter Julia has won his heart. He is about to reveal his feelings to her when news arrives that the United States has purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, thereby more than doubling the young nation's size. Lewis greets his old friend, Lt. William Clark, who has just arrived at the Hancock home, but then learns that the President has recalled him to Washington. At the White House, Jefferson places Lewis in charge of a military expedition that is to explore and chart the new territory from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide. Jefferson orders Lewis to continue even beyond the boundary of the purchase, however, proceeding, if possible, to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis wants Clark to share the command of the expedition, but when he returns to the Hancock estate, he learns that his friend and Julia have become engaged. Because Clark was unaware of Lewis' feelings for Julia, the captain forgives him, but his pain at losing Julia is evident. Later, in Wood River, near St. Louis, the two meet the flinty Sgt. Cass, along with most of the men who will accompany them, and Clark is annoyed to learn that a paperwork error has delayed his promotion to the rank of captain. The expedition travels up the Missouri in a large keelboat, mapping the river as they go. Upon arriving at a Minitari Indian village, Lewis assures the chief that the United States hopes for peaceful and friendly relations with the tribe. Although the tribal leader publicly acknowledges the sovereignty of the United States, he secretly plans for his warriors to ambush the expedition when it resumes its course. Assisting him is a French trader named Charboneau, who agrees to lead Lewis and Clark into the trap in exchange for a captured Shoshoni slave named Sacajawea. Seeing a chance to escape slavery and return to her people, Sacajawea asks if she might serve as the expedition's guide, but Clark distrusts Indians and refuses her request. After the white men leave, Sacajawea witnesses a war dance and realizes that the white men are heading into an ambush. She steals a horse and secretly rides ahead of the departing war party, arriving at the expedition's camp in time to prepare the soldiers for battle. After they defeat the Indians, Clark invites her to remain with the expedition. Continuing up the Missouri, the party splits up, with Lewis' group exploring one fork of the river, and Clark's the fork recommended by Sacajawea. After Sacajawea leaps into the strong current to rescue Clark's book of maps, he begins to call her Janie, a name, he remarks, that means "beautiful." Later, Clark falls ill, and as Sacajawea nurses him back to health, she realizes she is in love with him. Following his recovery, Clark tries to bolster the flagging spirits of the men, but when he dances with Sacajawea, Charboneau attacks him with a knife and claims that she is his. Sacajawea later declares that because he fought for her, Clark now possesses her. Clark gently rebuffs her because of her race, and even though he is unable to explain his reservations, she promises to wait for his marriage proposal. With both parties now reunited, the expedition finally reaches the village led by Sacajawea's brother Cameahwait. The Shoshonis are grateful to the explorers for returning their abducted sister and agree to provide horses for their journey over the mountains. Opposed to this plan is Wild Eagle, the warrior to whom Sacajawea had been promised before her capture. That night, Sacajawea again offers herself to Clark, but he allows her to remain in the tent only to prevent her from being given to Wild Eagle. Cameahwait guides the expedition over the mountains to the river "that leads to the great salt water." A messenger is sent ahead of the party to advise the Nez Perce that the white men are friends. Wild Eagle, however, kills the messenger and paddles into Nez Perce country intending to lay a trap. Meanwhile, Lewis accuses Clark of disregarding the feelings of both Sacajawea and Julia, and demands that the Shoshoni princess be sent home. Seeing that Clark intends to bring Sacajawea along, Lewis uses his superior rank to assume full command of the expedition, and orders Clark to leave her onshore. As the party canoes downriver, Sacajawea keeps pace with them by running along the shore until she collapses from exhaustion. Clark kisses her and places her in his canoe, whereupon Lewis threatens to have him court-martialed, and the two brawl. Down river, the party encounters the Nez Perce ambush devised by Wild Eagle. During the subsequent battle, Clark kills Wild Eagle, and Lewis removes the rope blocking the river. When the expedition finally reaches the Pacific Ocean, the slain are buried, and Lewis claims all of the land between the Rockies and the Pacific for the United States. Back in Washington, D.C. in 1806, Lewis and Clark introduce Sacajawea to President Jefferson. Later, Julia and "Janie" discuss the responsibilities of being a white man's wife, and Julia realizes that Clark loves the Shoshoni woman. When Julia learns that Lewis intends to have Clark court-martialed on her account, she asks Lewis to forego his plan, and to Clark's surprise and gratitude, Lewis desists. At a White House reception later that day, Julia tells Clark that "Janie" has returned to her own people, reading him a letter that Sacajawea dictated. In it, she explains that although the white people were kind to her, they were not her people, the United States not her country. "Have happy memories, like ours were, my love," she writes, "all the days of your life."
C. C. Coleman Jr.
Daniel L. Fapp
John P. Fulton
Donald R. O. Hatswell
Edmund H. North
William H. Pine
William C. Thomas
The Far Horizons
Surprisingly, this was the first time the famous duo and their exploits on behalf of the U.S. government were put on screen, albeit in a highly romanticized and less than historically accurate form. Perhaps earlier filmmakers felt that there wasn't much in the way of action or drama in the real-life expedition, despite its importance in mapping the continent to the Pacific and setting the stage for what has become known as America's "Manifest Destiny." The producers of The Far Horizons probably felt the same way, because the story is skewed to highlight undocumented romantic rivalries and betrayals in order to add some narrative tension.
In reality, Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) was an Army captain who became secretary to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801. After the Louisiana Purchase (Jefferson's acquisition from the French of a vast tract of Western land), Lewis, an avid naturalist, enlisted his close friend William Clark (1770-1838), an expert mapmaker, in an 18-month trip from Missouri to the Pacific Northwest. They were aided immeasurably by Shoshone tribe member Sacajawea (sometimes translated as "Birdwoman"), who not only guided them but acted as ambassador to some 50 tribes encountered along the way. After another 10-month trek home, Lewis was rewarded with the governorship of the Louisiana Territory, but approximately two years later, the unmarried explorer died, victim of either murder or suicide. It was left to Clark to publish the expedition's journals, assuring them both immortality. For her part, Sacajawea was finally given recognition with a one-dollar coin minted in her honor in 1998. Although there are no official records, her birth date is usually given by most historians around 1790; some accounts say she died around 1813, but Shoshone tradition suggests she lived a longer life and possibly into the 1880s.
Since collecting plant specimens and drawing maps weren't quite exciting enough for an adventure film, the producers added in not one but two love triangles. The first, according to scenarists Winston Miller and Edmund North, begins prior to the trip when Clark becomes engaged to a woman Lewis loves. The expedition leader's jealous nature becomes further pronounced along the way as it becomes obvious that a romantic bond is forming between Clark and Sacajawea. In the film, she is depicted as single, although in fact she was already married to Canadian trapper Toussaint Charboneau, and in real life bore him a child during the expedition. Charboneau's character is made the villain here, plotting with a tribal chief to lead the duo into an ambush (from which they are saved by Sacajawea). If those dramatic devices weren't enough to spice up the tale, more Indian attacks were thrown in for good measure.
Reportedly Gary Cooper and John Wayne were considered for leads but neither panned out. The part of Lewis was given to Fred MacMurray, already 12 years older than his character at his untimely death. Clark is played by Charlton Heston, then a quickly rising star with a number of top credits, although not yet the Moses and Ben-Hur of film history. A Los Angeles Times article from April 1953 claimed French actress Leslie Caron, fresh off her success in An American in Paris (1951) and Lili (1953), was being sought for the role of Sacajawea. Perhaps the producers could not negotiate successfully with Caron's home studio MGM, because the part went to Donna Reed, recent winner of a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance in From Here to Eternity (1953). Although cast as an unlikely Native American, Reed actually got the best reviews of any aspect of the production. A July 1954 news item in the Hollywood Reporter noted that during location filming, Reed was rushed by plane from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to Salt Lake City for emergency surgery but was back on the set two days later. The nature of the emergency was not reported.
Character actor Alan Reed (no relation to his co-star) played the part of Charboneau. Reed appeared in many movies for such directors as William Wyler, Raoul Walsh, and Douglas Sirk, and in episodes of many television shows, including Donna Reed's hit family comedy series. Still, his lasting impact on show business was as the voice of Fred Flintstone.
The Far Horizons was directed by Rudolph Maté, far better known as the cinematographer of Dodsworth (1936), To Be or Not to Be (1942), and The Lady from Shanghai (1947), among nearly 60 other films dating back to the start of his career in silents as the man who shot the films of landmark Danish director Carl Dreyer. Maté's own filmography as director (over 30 features) was less distinguished than his justly famous camera work.
The cast of The Far Horizons also features Barbara Hale, best known as valued secretary Della Street on the long-running TV series Perry Mason, and veteran character actor William Demarest, who later had a recurring role in MacMurray's television sitcom My Three Sons.
Director: Rudolph Maté
Producers: William H. Pine, William C. Thomas
Screenplay: Winston Miller, Edmund H. North, based on the novel Sacajawea of the Shoshones by Della Gould Emmons
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Editing: Frank Bracht
Art Direction: A. Earl Hedrick, Hal Pereira
Original Music: Hans Salter
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Lewis), Charlton Heston (Clark), Donna Reed (Sacajawea), Barbara Hale (Julia), Alan Reed (Charboneau), William Demarest (Sgt. Gass).
C-108m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Rob Nixon
The Far Horizons
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.
Released in United States Summer June 1955
Released in United States Summer June 1955