starring George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy
October, 1924

An epic of the flush times that followed the Civil War, when competing railroads struggled for the richest empire in the world. The picture is a visualization of the winning of the West which should endear it to all Americans. The story starts with the vision of a civil engineer, scorned and scoffed at by all save Abraham Lincoln, who dreams of the day when the continent will be spanned by a railroad. The years pass, and work is started on the road. The Central Pacific and Union Pacific start building from opposite directions. There are wonderful Indian fights, fist fights and gambling hall scenes. J. Farrell MacDonald as Corporal Casey wins fame by one of the best bits of character acting seen in many a day. Madge Bellamy plays the heroine and George O'Brien the hero.

in the same issue. . .

Based on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, authorized by Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War, the William Fox production called "The Iron Horse" not only follows history with a fine degree of accuracy, but it presents the romance and action of the time with telling effect.

After the Union Pacific started work at Omaha, Neb., building westward, the Southern Pacific commenced at Sacramento, heading into the east. The race began when the government granted land allotments and bonds to the roads as they acquired more territory. Each strove to outdo the other, for it had become a financial proposition for the backers.

The picture deals with the men on the rails who fought desert heat and mountain blizzards, along with Indians and wolves, often going without supplies. The hero is Davy Brandon, a young rail builder on the U.P. In love with the daughter of the construction engineer, he finds her engaged to another, and, discouraged, he goes over to join the C.P.

An Indian war brings the two together. They fight side by side on a flat car. A chain of events finally leads to a solution of their love problems, but before the romance reaches it climax with the wedding of the rails at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869, the young lovers endure untold suffering and prove their heroism a thousand times.

The picture centers more about the romance, but in its historical details it closely follows the records of the railroads.

A strong cast was engaged, and the direction was handled by John Ford.

George O'Brien has the leading role, with Madge Bellamy opposite him as the pioneer girl.

starring George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy
December, 1924

The best of our movie entertainment has a way of coming from unexpected quarters. When, for instance, William Fox announced the advent of the epoch-making production "The Iron Horse," I had no high hopes, particularly as Mr. Fox added to his advertisement the subtitle "the sweetest love story ever told." Years of experience have taught me not to be optimistic about the doings of the Fox studios.

But in "The Iron Horse" we have a picture that is much like "The Covered Wagon." In fact, it was probably inspired by the art - and the financial success - of the Cruze picture. But as long as people just look from without for their inspiration, it is good to find them imitating worthwhile things.

'The Iron Horse," like "The Covered Wagon," bases its drama on the geography and history of our excessively wide country. "The Covered Wagon" was a story of exploration and adventure. "The Iron Horse" tells of civilization and intrigue. In brief, it tells of the building of the railroads that link the West with the East and which make it possible for Easterners to go West and send back postals about climate.

It is an immensely interesting story and a really picturesque one. It has a genuine thrill and a thrill that is neither cheap nor unworthy. It is really refreshing to see a picture which contains an idea worth getting excited over. It is good to see the most admirable side of human nature pictured on the screen for a change.

The love story, of which Mr. Fox boasted, is the weakest part of the picture. Like the love story of "The Covered Wagon," it is a great bore, and if you really want to enjoy the picture, the best thing to do is to forget it. The tyrannic rule which says that all pictures must have love interest considerably weakens a melodrama with the vitality and force of "The Iron Horse." The building of the railroad is the important thing, and the picture's incessant concern with the romance of the hero and the heroine sometimes becomes monotonous. In the face of larger destinies, it is hard to et worked up over the happiness of the girl, as played by Madge Bellamy.

But the comedy is excellent and unforced, although there was no Ernest Torrence nor no Tully Marshall in the cast. And the historical episodes, which concern such personages as Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill, and Wild Bill Hickok, are played with sincerity and dignity and actually mean something to the story.

At times, "The Iron Horse, is frankly instructive in tone. It almost says, "Listen, children, and you will learn something that you ought to know." But I, for one, don't mind being instructed in a good cause. The seriousness of John Ford's direction and his obvious intention to make the picture good worthwhile stuff saves "The Iron Horse" from the wild wastes of Western melodrama.

The acting is entirely adequate, with George O'Brien giving the best performance in the picture. O'Brien is a newcomer, and, as far as I am concerned, he is welcome to play all the heroic roles he can get. Madge Bellamy as the heroine just keeps on looking pretty throughout the picture, but J. Farrell MacDonald puts life and humor into a character role while Fred Kohler, also a newcomer, makes a despicable villain.

The story of "The Iron Horse" was written by Charles Kenyon and John Russell, who are to be commended for digging up one of the most stirring tales of our Western world.

starring George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy
December, 1924

It is a vivid chapter of America in the making that is recorded in the Fox achievement -- "The Iron Horse," Indeed, it is as much a picture of American pluck and perseverance as "The Covered Wagon" -- tho a later group of pioneers are introduced -- the railroaders who were destined to link the East with the West. One carries away a vivid impression of the tremendous effort which went into the spanning of our continent with the first transcontinental railway.

It is interesting from first to last. It manages to breathe the spirit of those pioneering days when men in the lonely mountain fastnesses and over the scorching deserts laid the pathway which was to spread American civilization to the Pacific. We shall call it one of the biggest, finest achievements of the screen -- and rightly so, because of its faithful reproduction of a rich historical period.

It accurately records the atmosphere -- the adventure -- the romance of those exciting days -- when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific raced each other in order to win land tracts and bonuses authorized by Congress. The hardships, humor and strife that must needs enter into such an undertaking go to make it vastly entertaining. In this day and generation we have no conception of the magnitude of such a task as the building of a railroad in wild and unsettled country -- work hampered by hostile redskins, the rigors of winter and the heat of summer -- together with the important question of feeding the multitude of men engaged in laying the steel ties.

We cannot imagine anyone failing to respond to the emotional appeal of this wonderful picture. Even if he is not an American, he will catch the romance and adventure -- the struggles and hardships of these pioneers. Vivid impressions are gained from its rich assortment of scenes. The action moves vigorously with one or two exceptions where the story lags to emphasize a certain incident.

The spread of civilization in America is perhaps its sustaining note. And projecting it, we see episodes that grip us because they visualize, humanize actual facts.

It is said that the feature was three or four years in the making. This is reasonable to believe in the careful attention to accurate detail and atmosphere. With vast energy, with a bewildering outlay of men and beasts, this reproduction has been accomplished. It stands as a distinct credit to John Ford's directiorial ability. He has climbed to the high pedestal. Fox had faith in him. He has rewarded his producers with a picture which will leave an excellent impression everywhere. He has brought out the significance of the theme -- and displayed a fine sense of dramatic values in establishing the suspense, thrills, romance and humor.

Yes, it carries a love story. So did "The Covered Wagon." And it is just as necessary in generating sentiment as it was in the Paramount opus. But the real interest lies in the bigger romance of these pioneers carrying civilization to the Pacific slope. Interwoven with the love interest are incidents in the lives of Buffalo Bill., Abraham Lincoln, General Dodge, Wild Bill Hickok, and other vital personages of the period -- incidents based upon historical facts.

However, the most stirring moments are those centering round the exploits of the pioneers -- the humor among the track layers, excellently suggested by J. Farrell MacDonald, James Welch and Francis Powers -- and those very human touches of the celebrated figures mentioned above. Charles Edward Bull as Lincoln presents a remarkable likeness -- and he had the same lanky awkwardness associated with the martyred President. The romance is carried on by George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy -- and they rise to the occasion in splendid fashion. But the acting honors go to MacDonald as the colorful Casey, the track-layer.

It contains a wealth of fine photographic backgrounds -- some of the long shots being very beautiful. It presents many thrills, too. Indeed, it carries enough drama and romance, action and incident, to please the most exacting. The authors are Charles Kenyon and John Russell.

Go see "The Iron Horse." It is well worth your while.

For more information, see "The Iron Horse" as our "Feature of the Month"

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