Thursday, November 28, 2019

See the Erie Canal at the Movies

In honor of the the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal (constructed 1817-1825), here are some movies – fictional and documentary – that feature the Erie Canal. Segments (minutes) are given that illustrate or describe the canal.

The Farmer Takes a Wife, 1935 (Wikipedia) (IMDB)

Based on the 1929 novel, Rome Haul, by Walter Edmonds (which was also the basis for the 1934 Broadway production (Wikipedia, IBDB)), most of this movie involves the Erie Canal. Stars Janet Gaynor and Henry Fonda (in his first movie appearance), directed by Victor Fleming. Many canal scenes appear throughout the movie. This scene, which takes place in a tavern, renders a comic version of Low Bridge, Everybody Down.

A DVD of the movie was released by 20th Century-Fox's Cinema Archives and is widely available. Also, you can watch the entire movie here.

The Farmer Takes a Wife, 1953 (Wikipedia) (IMDB)

Another movie based on Walter Edmond's Rome Haul, this one is a musical adaptation with songs by Harold Arlen and Dorothy Fields. Stars Betty Grable and Dale Robertson, directed by Henry Levin. Many canal scenes appear throughout the movie. You can watch it here. or here.

The Farmer Takes a Wife, 1940, 1953

The play was adapted for radio, twice! Listen or download the mp3 here:

Rio Grande, 1950 (Wikipedia) (IMDB)

As John Wayne leads the U.S. Calvary on horseback across the dusty desert southwest, he calls out, “Singers, give us a tune!” The chosen song? Low Bridge, Everybody Down (The Erie Canal Song). Stars Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne, directed by John Ford.
Minutes: 49:12-49:48

How the West Was Won, 1962 (Wikipedia) (IMDB)

This Cinerama epic spans many decades. It begins with the Erie Canal.

Minutes: 9:26-11:00 and 14:08-15:15

New York: A Documentary Film, 1999 (PBS) (Wikipedia) (IMDB)

Episode 1: The Country and the City (1609-1825);
  Chapter 10, A Larger Destiny: The Grid and the Canal
Minutes: 1:33:19-1:43:05

In the next episode of the series, Episode Two: 1825-1865, Order and Disorder, Chapter Two, The Metropolis of America, the important role of the Erie Canal in the growth on New York City is highlighted - minutes 6:38-8:03.

15 Miles On The Erie Canal - Part 1 (2006)

15 Miles On The Erie Canal - Part 2 (2006)

America's Heritage: The Erie Canal (1957)

Carver Companies Move GE Steam Turbines (2016)

 That's all for now! If you know of any other Erie Canal scenes at the movies, please let me know.


  1. Thanks, Sandy! I didn't appreciate until adulthood all those rainy lunch recesses spent in the school auditorium learning and singing traditional American songs like "Erie Canal," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "Clementine," etc. There's a lot of history in those songs and one never hears them anymore. Keep up your good work preserving them!

  2. The song, "Low Bridge: Everybody Down (or Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal)," is a story unto itself. I call it "A Tribute to Sal: A Dedicated, Reliable Worker, Displaced by the Advance of Technology."


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