Across the Wide Missouri (1951): Wellman’s Western, Starring Gable as Kentucky Trapper

Clark Gable plays an uncharacteristically non-heroic role in William Wellman’s sprawling western, Across the Wide Missouri.

A cunning Kentucky trapper who lives by his wits, Flint Michael assembles an expedition for a trip into virgin beaver territory guarded by militant Blackfoot tribe.  He avoids being scalped by the Blackfoot Indians through marriage to the Indian maid Kamiah (Maria Elena Marques), the chief’s daughter.

Michael hopes she can assist in appeasing the tribe, which is presided over by her aged grandfather, Bear Ghost (Jack Holt).  This marriage of convenience also allows him to trap in Blackfoot territory.

After bearing a child, Kamiah is killed by a warring tribe. At first, Michael considers abandoning the child, but, predictably, he changes his mind.

Adolphe Menjou is cast as a French trapper, while Ricardo Montalban and J. Carroll Naish portray Native Americans.

Unfortunately, the whole movie unfolds as an episode, a single chapter from a book, with both past and future left untold.

When Across the Wide Missouri tested poorly in previews, it was butchered by the producers, and the final release version was only 78 minute long.

A narration by Howard Keel (who is not in the film) was added for clarity and continuity purposes.


Clark Gable

Ricardo Montalban

John Hodiak

Adolphe Menjou

Maria Elena Marques

J. Carrol Naish

Jack Holt

Alan Napier

George Chandler

Douglas Fowley

Henri Letondal

Richard Anderson




Produced by Robert Sisk.

Directed by William Wellman.

Screenplay by Talbot Jennings, based on a story by Talbot Jennings and Frank Cavett.

Photography by William Mellor.

Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and James Basevi.

Music by David Racksin.

Editor: John Dunn.

Release date: October 1, 1951.

Running time: 78 minutes.