The Iron Horse (1924) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Iron Horse1924

The Iron Horse (1924)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Iron Horse is the seminal western epic and is the film that proved that B movie director John Ford was a major filmmaking talent. Considered a classic, this sweeping tale of the construction of the first transcontinental railroad contains many elements and characters that would later become stock parts of the western genre. The film opens as an idealistic builder shares his dream of building a railroad to link the coasts with a general contractor who pooh-poohs the idea until President Lincoln himself steps in and okays the immense project. The builder and his young son travel to Monument Valley to scout out an acceptable route for the new railroad and select an enormous pass. Unfortunately, they are set upon by Indians and the builder dies. The son, Davy, survives though and grows up to become a rider for the Pony Express. One day he finds himself pursued by more murderous Indians and is only able to escape by jumping off his exhausted horse onto a speeding train. He ends up at the construction sight of the slowly eastwardly moving tracks and there Davy meets the man who years ago, disagreed with his father. This man is now in charge of the project. Davy also meets the contractor's beautiful daughter. Romantic sparks fly, but unfortunately, the girl is engaged to the treacherous surveyor assigned to find a safe route for the pass (Davy and his father already found such a place, but the Indian attack occurred before they could tell anyone). No one realizes that the surveyor secretly works for a greedy rancher who wants the railroad to go across his enormous spread. When Davy tells the surveyor about the route he and his father found, he doesn't understand why the surveyor staunchly insists that the railroad cross the rancher's land until the surveyor attempts to have him killed. Davy investigates and learns that it was the rancher, not the Indians who really killed his father.

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George O'Brien
as Davy Brandon
Winston Miller
as Davy (younger)
Peggy Cartwright
as Miriam (younger)
Madge Bellamy
as Miriam Marsh
Charles Edward Bull
as Abraham Lincoln
Cyril Chadwick
as Peter Jesson
James Gordon
as David Brandon, Sr.
James Marcus
as Judge Haller
Francis Powers
as Sgt. Slattery
James Welch
as Private Schultz
John Padjan
as Wild Bill Hickok
Charles O'Malley
as Maj. North
Charles Newton
as Collis P. Huntington
Delbert Mann
as Charles Crocker
Frances Teague
as Polka Dot
Judge Charles
as Abraham Lincoln
Chief White Spear
as Sioux Chief
Chief John Big Tree
as Cheyenne Chief
Edward Peil Sr.
as Old Chinaman
George Waggner
as Buffalo Bill Cody
William Walling
as Thomas Marsh
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Critic Reviews for The Iron Horse

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (3)

Of blood and tears, then, is The Iron Horse woven, an epic sort of picture somewhat after the manner of The Covered Wagon, but quite distinctive of itself.

May 17, 2021 | Full Review…

The picture is absurd-and enjoyable.

September 14, 2015 | Full Review…

It's a large canvas, and one that the filmmaker, then 29, often has trouble filling.

September 21, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Without extravagant camera work, the tricks and the effects have been brilliantly selected and gauged. [Full review in Spanish]

February 28, 2020 | Full Review…

Mid-level Ford, full of both interest and faults.

April 1, 2013 | Full Review…

John Ford's first American epic is not a birth of a nation, but its physical and symbolic unification in the wake of the Civil War.

August 11, 2010 | Full Review…

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