1840s. Brigham Young (Jagger) joins Joseph Smith's Mormon Church just as persecution drives the faithful Utah-wards. The community they establish is riven with conflict and almost perishes in the harsh winter, until seagulls arrive to eat the locusts that are ruining the make-or-break wheat crop. Tensions are also evident between Mormon history and 1940 sensitivities, so that although Brigham's polygamy is alluded to, Mary Astor never shares the frame with another Mrs Young. Common ownership of land and crops is acknowledged, but greater emphasis is placed on the Mormons exercising their Constitutional rights and on their status as Fordian pioneers. Still, Hathaway resists mythologising a narrative already laden with Biblical symbolism: Smith and Young are portrayed as tetchy zealots. And there is richness in the detail: the practicalities of how a town uproots itself, how birth, death and schooling go on inside a moving wagon.
Cast and crew