20th Century-Fox's Western Union was loosely based on a story by Zane Grey. The basic historical facts behind the connecting of telegraph wires between Omaha and Salt Lake City serve as a backdrop for a fictional story straight out of Manhattan Melodrama. Randolph Scott and Barton MacLane are cast as brothers who pursue wildly divergent paths in adulthood: Scott, an ex-outlaw, goes to work for Western Union, while MacLane remains a criminal, leading a concerted effort to sabotage the telegraph company. The Indians, too often merely villains in films of this nature, are treated with relative sympathy. When they do attack the whites, it is principally because they have been falsely accused of crimes committed by MacLane and his bunch. Western Union was the second Technicolor western effort from director Fritz Lang; the first was the equally popular The Return of Frank James.