When transplanted Texan Bob Seton arrives in Lawrence, Kansas he finds much to like about the place, especially Mary McCloud, daughter of the local banker. Politics is in the air however. ... See full summary »
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When transplanted Texan Bob Seton arrives in Lawrence, Kansas he finds much to like about the place, especially Mary McCloud, daughter of the local banker. Politics is in the air however. It's just prior to the civil war and there is already a sharp division in the Territory as to whether it will remain slave-free. When he gets the opportunity to run for marshal, Seton finds himself running against the respected local schoolteacher, William Cantrell. Not is what it seems however. While acting as the upstanding citizen in public, Cantrell is dangerously ambitious and is prepared to do anything to make his mark, and his fortune, on the Territory. When he loses the race for marshal, he forms a group of raiders who run guns into the territory and rob and terrorize settlers throughout the territory. Eventually donning Confederate uniforms, it is left to Seton and the good citizens of Lawrence to face Cantrell and his raiders in one final clash. Written by
The character of Will Cantrell is loosely based on the real life Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill. Like Cantrell, Quantrill was born in Ohio, taught school in Lawrence, Kansas, became a guerrilla fighter on the Confederate side and burned Lawrence to the ground. However, the Confederacy eventually distanced itself from him and later revoked his commission and disowned him, because of his band's propensity for executing prisoners, massacring civilians, looting and raping. The real Quantrill died not at the hands of "Bob Seton" but during an ambush by a Union cavalry unit, Unable to escape on account of a skittish horse, he was shot in the back and paralyzed from the chest down. He was brought by wagon to Louisville, Kentucky and taken to the military prison hospital, located on the north side of Broadway at 10th Street. He died from his wounds on June 6, 1865, at the age of 27. See more »
Throughout the film, Colt Single Action Army revolvers (commonly known as Peacemakers) are used by various actors including John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and George 'Gabby' Hayes. This revolver was not produced until the 1870s. The film is set in the late 1850s and 1860s. See more »
[Cantrell has been defeated by Bob Seton in the election for marshal]
Learning, studying, working like a dog... and what did it get me? The first chance I have to be somebody, I'm beaten out of it by an ignorant cowhand who can't even write his own name! Well, I can write mine... and I'm going to write it across the territory in letters of fire and blood if I have to! I'm going to be somebody in this country! Somebody big!
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"Dark Command" is, of course, one of the Essential Westerns, since it puts up Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes and JOHN WAYNE on the screen at the same time--not to mention teaming up the Duke with Claire Trevor, his lady from "Stagecoach." It's also a transitional film, mixing in elements (and actors) from the long line of Republic horse operas of the 1930s with themes, leads, and a director more in line with the "A" pictures of its day. The real star is the heavy, Cantrell (Walter Pidgeon), who begins as a schoolteacher and ends as a cynical partisan leader with no real allegiance. John Wayne is no slouch here, but his role is too much the conventional good guy to allow him to outsize Pidgeon. Roy Rogers actually gets to kill a guy, and Gabby Hayes plays something more than a caricature.
Now for the history: There wasn't really a time warp in 1861 Kansas that allowed people to get Colt Model 1873 revolvers, which everyone in the movie except Claire Trevor seems to pack. Sergio Leone got away with it in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," though, so I will forgive Mr. Walsh. Cantrell is VERY loosely based on William Quantrill, a Confederate guerrilla leader who actually burned Lawrence, KS, during the Civil War. Thirty years after "Dark Command," John Wayne would play a former member of Quantrill's Raiders in "True Grit."
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