In his book on Lacan, Slavoj Zizek points out that Hollywood movies made under the Code are often sexier than the more overt movies of now. Back then, sex was contained under the surface, waiting to explode. This is the case with “Westward the Women.” The plot, after all, is about a handful of cowboys tasked with getting 100 women to California to mate with 100 sex-starved men. The minute the wagon train leaves civilization, the sexual tension between the cowboys and the women begins. (Don’t get the wrong idea. This is covert. The hardship of the journey itself dominates the film.)
The tension and longing is best exemplified in a scene when Fifi, in her broken-English way, tells her fellow prostitute-trying-to-reform friend Laurie that she’s hopelessly in love with cranky trail boss Buck. “Don’t get ideas,” Laurie tells her. Fifi responds, as the camera angle includes her ample chest, “Ideas, they get me.” Buck’s impossible task is keeping the men and women apart until the end of the journey. As we’ll see, he not only has to wrestle with his own men, and the more-than-formidable Fifi, but himself.