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The Oregon Trail (1959)

Approved | | Western | September 1959 (USA)
In 1846, a newspaperman joins an Oregon Trail wagon train to verify rumors about the U.S. government sending troops disguised as settlers there in order to claim Oregon.


Gene Fowler Jr.


Louis Vittes (story), Louis Vittes (screenplay) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Fred MacMurray ... Neal Harris
William Bishop ... Capt. George Wayne
Nina Shipman Nina Shipman ... Prudence Cooper
Gloria Talbott ... Shona Hastings
Henry Hull ... George Seton
John Carradine ... Zachariah Garrison
John Dierkes ... Gabe Hastings
Roxene Wells Roxene Wells ... Flossie Shoemaker
Elizabeth Patterson ... Maria Cooper
Gene N. Fowler Gene N. Fowler ... Richard Cooper
James Bell ... Jeremiah Cooper
John Slosser John Slosser ... Johnny
Ralph Sanford ... John Decker
Sherry Spalding Sherry Spalding ... Lucy
Tex Terry Tex Terry ... Brizzard


In 1846, a reporter for the New York Herald joins a wagon train bound for the Oregon Territory. He hopes to confirm a rumor that President Polk is sending in soldiers disguised as settlers in order to strengthen American claims to the Territory. Written by dinky-4 of Minneapolis

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When the cry of a frontier on the move was '54-40 or fight' !




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

September 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mit Büchse und Colt See more »

Filming Locations:

Hollywood, California, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This wasn't Fred MacMurray's first trip to Oregon; four years earlier, he played Merriweather Lewis in The Far Horizons (1955) opposite Charlton Heston as William Clarke. See more »


Although the movie takes place in 1846, it shows the soldiers using Colt Dragoon revolvers, which weren't manufactured until 1848. The only Colt revolvers before 1848 was the Colt Patterson revolver, a small caliber 5 shot revolver which was used by the Texas Rangers. See more »


James Gordon Bennett: I wish you could write as well as you dress.
Neal Harris: Oh. Well, it all depends on the incentive, sir. Tonight, the incentive is much prettier than the people I interview.
See more »


Never Alone
Lyrics and Music by Will Miller
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User Reviews

Well-worn ruts on this "Trail"
7 August 2005 | by dinky-4See all my reviews

By 1959, TV westerns had begun to replace the Hollywood B-western so there's the distinct feeling that "The Oregon Trail" -- despite its color and widescreen -- really isn't needed. Certainly there's no passion or style apparent in the film's making. It's more a case of everyone just going through the motions and collecting a paycheck.

Things begin unpromisingly with a scene involving President Polk in Washington D.C. This scene tries to give the story a historical context but it's on the dull and talky side. This is followed by another lax scene in which dapper, man-about-town reporter, Fred MacMurray, is assigned to go west on a wagon train and write a story for his newspaper. Finally, as MacMurray arrives in Westport, Missouri -- the eastern start of the Oregon Trail -- things begin rolling. They do so in a conventional way, however, and the entire trek west is filled with the usual situations: troubling encounters with Indians, dry water holes, tensions among the folk on the wagon train, an unexpected rain storm, a funeral service by the side of the trail, a settler protecting his apple-tree seedlings, etc. The use of stock shots and indoor sets hamper the effects of many of these scenes and there's no real villain to conflict with Fred MacMurray. There's also no tension about his mission since he makes no effort to hide it and the possible romantic- triangle involving him and William Bishop and Nina Shipman never takes form. Instead, MacMurray is implausibly paired with Gloria Talbott who appears fairly late in the proceedings.

Action builds toward a last-reel Indian attack which now seems quite "politically incorrect." (The "half-breed" Indian girl implausibly says: "It is because of this, I renounce my people.") Perhaps the only notable thing about "The Oregon Trail" is the scene in which Indians capture Fred MacMurray, strip off his shirt, and stake him out to die. (For a man in his early 50s, MacMurray looks pretty good bare-chested!) While TV westerns often staged these stake-outs, they're not all that common in the movies, and who'd believe one of them would "star" an actor about to get a career boost by playing in Disney comedies?!

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