Wagons East

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Wagons East
Wagons east.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Markle
Produced by
  • Gary Goodman
  • Robert Newmyer
  • Barry Rosen
  • Jeffrey Silver
Written by Matthew Carlson
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography Frank Tidy
Edited byScott Conrad
Distributed by
Release date
  • August 26, 1994 (1994-08-26)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.4 million

Wagons East (sometimes stylised as Wagons East!) is a 1994 American Western adventure comedy film directed by Peter Markle and starring John Candy and Richard Lewis. The film was released in the United States on August 26, 1994. Filming took place in Sierra de Órganos National Park in the town of Sombrerete, Mexico, and in Durango, Mexico. [1]


During the final days of the film's production in Durango, Mexico, John Candy died of a heart attack at the age of 43. [2] Script re-writes, a stand-in and special effects were used to complete his remaining scenes, and it was released five months after his death. [3] The film marked Candy's penultimate performance. His last film, Canadian Bacon , which he had completed before Wagons East!, had a delayed release in the end of 1995.


In the 1860s Wild West, a group of misfit settlers including ex-doctor Phil Taylor, prostitute Belle, and homosexual bookseller Julian decide they cannot live in their current situation in the west, so they hire a grizzled alcoholic wagon master by the name of James Harlow to take them on a journey back to their hometowns in the East.

Comedic exploits ensue as the drunken wagon master lets his horse choose the correct fork in the road, leads them to a dried out watering hole, and eventually guides them into Sioux territory where they are captured. The Chief, however, is sympathetic to the idea of 'white men heading back east', and offers an escort off Sioux land. Meanwhile, they must also contend with (inept) hired gunslingers who have been sent by railroad magnates to stop the journey, as they fear the bad publicity it could create for the settlers about to commence a 'land rush' into the west.

Harlow's secret, that he had been wagon master for the infamous Donner Party, eventually comes out, and the group confront Harlow about his past; he chooses to walk away from the group and they proceed on their own. As he resumes his drinking at the closest tavern, he overhears that the cavalry will be confronting the group the following day, and intends to wipe them out, as directed by the head of the railroad company.

As the cavalry arrives the next day, and the group 'square their wagons', Harlow rides in to the rescue and 'calls out' the cavalry leader to single combat. After a drawn out and comical fight scene, Harlow is victorious, and the group celebrates. Harlow and Belle decide to pursue a relationship, Julian departs for somewhere 'even further west' (San Francisco) and the group rides toward the now visible St. Louis to finish the journey.



Candy was contractually mandated to make the film due to his existing contract with Carolco Pictures from their abandoned John Hughes film Bartholomew v. Neff Candy was to do with Sylvester Stallone. Despite his misgivings about the material, and due to the fact that he owed more than $1 million due to his stake as a minority owner with the Toronto Argonauts football team, he agreed to make the film in Durango, Mexico. [4]


The film was released five months after Candy's death [5] [6] and was a box office bomb. [7] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 reviews, the film has a rare approval rating of 0%  meaning no favorable reviews whatsoever receiving an average rating of 2.4/10. The site's consensus describes the film as "a witless, toothless satire of Westerns that falls far below the standard set by Blazing Saddles , and is notable only for being John Candy's final screen performance." [8]

Film critic Roger Ebert, who called the film "a sad way to end John Candy's career", stated that his legacy was already permanent and would survive this film. [9] In the book The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies, Wagons East! is listed at number one on its list of The Ten Worst Westerns. [10]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C-" on an A+ to F scale. [11]

Year-end lists

See also

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  2. Phil Reeves (1994-03-05). "Actor John Candy dies in Mexico". The Independent . Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  3. "The Daily Gazette - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  4. Crane, Robert, (2017). Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father's Unsolved Murder
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  6. Willman, Chris (1994-08-26). "MOVIE REVIEW: 'Wagons East!'-Candy's Final Film-Just Pokes Along - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times .
  7. Bates, James (2008-09-22). "COMPANY TOWN : SEC Filings Show Carolco Has Little to Sing About : Movies: The company expects to lose money this year and next, despite a major financial reorganization negotiated last year". Los Angeles Times.
  8. "Wagons East! (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  9. Ebert, Roger (August 26, 1994). "Wagons East!". RogerEbert.com.
  10. Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini. The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies Morgan James Publishing, 2012. ISBN   1614482225.
  11. "CinemaScore". CinemaScore . Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  12. Denerstein, Robert (January 1, 1995). "Perhaps It Was Best to Simply Fade to Black". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 61A.
  13. Mills, Michael (December 30, 1994). "It's a Fact: 'Pulp Fiction' Year's Best". The Palm Beach Post (Final ed.). p. 7.