Synopsis by Mark Deming
John Ford directed this epic-scale silent western, which was one of his first major successes and was hugely influential on outdoor films that followed. David Brandon (James Gordon) is a surveyor in the Old West who dreams that one day the entire North American continent will be linked by railroads. However, to make this dream a reality, a clear trail must be found through the Rocky Mountains. With his boy Davy (Winston Miller), David sets out to find such a path, but he's ambushed by a tribe of Indians led by a white savage, Deroux (Fred Kohler); while the boy manages to escape, David is killed. Years later, the adult Davy Brandon (George O'Brien) still believes in his father's dream of a transcontinental railroad, and legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln has made it an official mandate. Davy is hired on as a railroad surveyor by Thomas Marsh (Will R. Walling), the father of his childhood sweetheart Miriam (Madge Bellamy). While Davy hopes to win Miriam's heart as he helps to find the trail that led to his father's death years ago, he's disappointed to discover that Miriam is already engaged to Peter Jesson (Cyril Chadwick), a civil engineer and Marsh's right-hand man. As the Union Pacific crew presses on to their historic meeting at Promontory Point, Jesson swears loyalty to Deroux, and makes an attempt on Davy's life. Later, after Davy gains the upper-hand, a Cheyenne raid leads to a shocking revelation about that fateful night when he watched his father die. Shot on location in Arizona in Ford's beloved Monument Valley, The Iron Horse was a massive production that employed over 6,000 people; two temporary cities were built to accommodate them, with 100 cooks on hand to serve meals.
railroad, construction, transcontinental, attack, cross-country, deception, land, Native-American, passage, scheme, villain, love, worker
High Historical Importance