The Iron Horse (Transcontinental Railroad Film Series: Images of the West)
The events surrounding the building and completion of the Transcontinental Railroad are woven in the history and lore of the American West. Over the course of six weeks, the Stanford Historical Society will present a series of films, each introduced by historians, film scholars, and researchers, that will attempt to put these historical events in perspective. A discussion will follow each screening.
About the film:
The Iron Horse (1924) 150 minutes
Director John Ford’s The Iron Horse is the first motion picture depiction of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. This silent film depicts how completion of the railroad ended the frontier age and made the industrial and commercial conquest of the western interior inevitable. Legend has it that Ford was so committed to detail on this film--which was made on location in the Sierra Nevada and included herds of 10,000 cattle and 1,300 buffalo--that he got hold of the original locomotives, the Jupiter and the 116, that appear meeting head to head in Andrew Russell's famous photograph of the joining of the tracks at Promontory Point, Utah.
Disclaimer: There is no way to get around it. Some portrayals of immigrants, native people, women and people of color in this film represent stereotyping and are downright offensive. They may make some viewers uncomfortable; we apologize, that is not our intention. These characterizations, viewed through the historical prism of the time the films were made can provide a window into how prejudices are created and often reinforced through popular culture. As part of our film series, we hope that these images will spark conversation and positive dialog, while providing a variety of perspectives about how, over a century of filmmaking, history has sometimes been misrepresented.