The Covered Wagon

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The Covered Wagon
The Covered Wagon poster.jpg
Theatrical poster[1]
Directed by James Cruze
Produced by Jesse L. Lasky
Written by Jack Cunningham (adaptation)
Based on The Covered Wagon
by Emerson Hough
Starring J. Warren Kerrigan
Lois Wilson
Music by Josiah Zuro
Hugo Riesenfeld
Cinematography Karl Brown
Edited by Dorothy Arzner
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • March 16, 1923 (1923-03-16)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent (English intertitles)
Budget $782,000
Box office $3.5 million[2]

The Covered Wagon is a 1923 American silent Western film released by Paramount Pictures. The film was directed by James Cruze based on a novel by Emerson Hough about a group of pioneers traveling through the old West from Kansas to Oregon. J. Warren Kerrigan starred as Will Banion and Lois Wilson as Molly Wingate. On their quest they experience desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and Indian attack.[3]

The Covered Wagon is one of many films from 1923 that entered the public domain in the United States on January 1, 2019.[4]


Cast notes

  • Tim McCoy, as Technical Advisor, recruited the Native Americans who appeared in this movie which included Northern Arapaho Nation from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.[5]


The film was a major production for its time, with an estimate budget of $782,000.[6]

In his 1983 book Classics of the Silent Cinema, radio and TV host Joe Franklin claimed this film was "the first American epic not directed by Griffith".[5]

In the 1980 documentary Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Cinema, Jesse L. Laskey Jr. maintained that the goal of director James Cruze was " ... to elevate the Western, which had always been sort of a potboiler kind of film, to the status of an epic".[7]

The film required a large cast and film crew and many extras,[8] and was filmed in various locations, including Palm Springs, California[9]:168–71 and several places in Nevada and Utah.[10] The dramatic buffalo hunt and buffalo stampede scenes were filmed on Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah. During filming for the movie, seven bison from the Antelope Island Bison Herd were shot and killed [citation?].

The covered wagons gathered by Paramount from all over the Southwest were not replicas, but the real wagons that had brought the pioneers west. They were cherished heirlooms of the families who owned them. The producers offered the owners $2 a day and feed for their stock if they would bring the wagons for the movie. Most of the extras seen on film are the families who owned the covered wagons and were perfectly at home driving them and living out of them during the production.[11]


The film premiered in New York City on 16 March 1923 and ran 98 minutes. A musical soundtrack was recorded in the short-lived DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process, but sources vary on whether this record soundtrack was of the entire score or about two reels worth of the film. The Phonofilm version of the film was only shown this way at the premiere at the Rivoli Theater in New York City.[12] Paramount reportedly also released Bella Donna on 1 April 1923 with a Phonofilm soundtrack, also only at the premiere at the Rivoli.

The film was the most popular movie of 1923 in the US and Canada.[13] This was also Warren Harding's favorite film as he showed it at a special screening at the White House during the summer of 1923.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also


  1. ^ Alternative poster
  2. ^ "The All Time Best Sellers". International Motion Picture Almanac 1937-38. Quigley Publishing Company. p. 942. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  3. ^ "The Covered Wagon".
  4. ^ "Public Domain Day 2019". Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  5. ^ a b Franklin, Joe. Classics of the Silent Screen. Bramhall House.
  6. ^ "The Covered Wagon". September 8, 1924. Retrieved October 23, 2016 – via IMDb.
  7. ^ Brownlow, Kevin. Episode "Out West", Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Cinema (Thames Television), 1980.
  8. ^ "". Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  9. ^ Niemann, Greg (2006). Palm Springs Legends: creation of a desert oasis. San Diego, California: Sunbelt Publications. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-932653-74-1. OCLC 61211290. (here for Table of Contents)
  10. ^ "The Covered Wagon". September 8, 1924. Retrieved October 23, 2016 – via IMDb.
  11. ^ Episode "Out West", Hollywood, 1980.
  12. ^ "Silent Era : Progressive Silent Film List". Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  13. ^ Variety list of box office champions for 1923
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 20 August 2016.

External links

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