Three Faces West

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Three Faces West
Three Faces West 1940.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Bernard Vorhaus
Written by F. Hugh Herbert
Joseph Moncure March
Samuel Ornitz
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Starring John Wayne
Sigrid Gurie
Charles Coburn
CinematographyJohn Alton
Edited byWilliam Morgan
Music by Victor Young
Republic Pictures
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Release date
  • July 3, 1940 (1940-07-03)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States

Three Faces West is a 1940 American drama film directed by Bernard Vorhaus and starring John Wayne, Sigrid Gurie and Charles Coburn. [1]


The film, mainly set in North Dakota was one of a handful of overtly anti-Nazi films produced by Hollywood before American entry into World War II. [2] Isolationists and Nazi sympathizers condemned other Hollywood movies for being pro-British "propaganda" or for "glorifying war", however Three Faces West was deliberately crafted to celebrate the pioneer spirit of America, and the determination of Americans to survive the dust bowl, and contrasted these values with the evils of Nazism, thus preventing isolationists and Nazi sympathizers from being able to criticize the film as they had criticized other anti-Nazi films during this period. [3]

Writing in the Journal of Austrian-American History , Jacqueline Vansant has argued that the film "takes a bold stand on contemporary issues through its Austrian-American romance." [4]


Two refugees, the Brauns, an elderly medical doctor and his 20-something-year-old daughter arrive in the USA from Nazi-controlled Austria.

They become a much-needed physician and nurse in a small North Dakota farm town. The town is located in the area later known as the Dust Bowl, and is being hit hard by the drought and resultant dust storms.

The local farmers and townspeople want to try to save their farms and the town by adopting new farming methods, but are eventually convinced by the Department of Agriculture, and the continuing dust storms to pack up the whole town and move en-masse to an undeveloped portion of Oregon. There a new dam is set to create a water supply, enabling them to build a new farming community.

In a then-contemporary version of an old wagon train, the town moves as a convoy of cars to Oregon, under John Phillips's leadership, not without differences of opinion and friction among the followers.

The doctor and his daughter take a detour to San Francisco when they learn that the daughter's fiance was not killed by the Nazis in Austria, but has instead come to America. However, the fiance has embraced Nazism, and their different ideologies now mean marriage is not possible. The doctor and his daughter rejoin the transplanted town in Oregon, where the daughter marries Phillips instead (John Wayne).


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  1. "Three Faces West (1940)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Baseline & All Movie Guide . Retrieved February 1, 2016.[ dead link ]
  2. Hollywood Modernism: Film and Politics in the Age of the New Deal By Saverio Giovacchini pg. 123
  3. Hollywood War Films, 1937-1945: An Exhaustive Filmography of American Feature-Length Motion Pictures Relating to World War II by Michael S Shull pg. 36
  4. Vansant, Jacqueline (2017). "Austrian and Dustbowl Refugees Unite in Three Faces West (1940)". Journal of Austrian-American History. 1 (1): 98–116. doi:10.5325/jaustamerhist.1.1.0098. ISSN   2475-0905. JSTOR   10.5325/jaustamerhist.1.1.0098.