The Covered Wagon is one of many films from 1923 that entered the public domain in the United States on January 1, 2019.
The film was a major production for its time, with an estimate budget of $782,000.
In his 1983 book Classics of the Silent Cinema, radio and TV host Joe Franklin claimed this film was “the first American epic not directed by Griffith”.
In the 1980 documentary Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Cinema, Jesse L. Laskey Jr. maintained that the goal of director James Cruze was ” … to elevate the Western, which had always been sort of a potboiler kind of film, to the status of an epic”.
The film required a large cast and film crew and many extras, and was filmed in various locations, including Palm Springs, California and several places in Nevada and Utah. The dramatic buffalo hunt and buffalo stampede scenes were filmed on Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah. During filming for the movie, seven bison from the Antelope Island Bison Herd were shot and killed.
The covered wagons gathered by Paramount from all over the Southwest were not replicas, but the real wagons that had brought the pioneers west. They were cherished heirlooms of the families who owned them. The producers offered the owners $2 a day and feed for their stock if they would bring the wagons for the movie. Most of the extras seen on film are the families who owned the covered wagons and were perfectly at home driving them and living out of them during the production.
James Cruze [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons