Dark Command (1940)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, Western  |  15 April 1940 (USA)
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In Kansas, during the Civil War opposing pro-Union and pro-Confederate camps clash and visiting Texan Bob Seton runs afoul of William Cantrell's Raiders.



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Stars: John Wayne, Ann Dvorak, Joseph Schildkraut


Complete credited cast:
Fletch McCloud
Doc Grunch (as George Hayes)
Porter Hall ...
Mrs. Cantrell / Mrs. Adams
Raymond Walburn ...
Joe Sawyer ...
Bushropp (as Joseph Sawyer)
Helen MacKellar ...
Mrs. Hale
J. Farrell MacDonald ...
Mr. Hale


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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A drama of undying love


Drama | Romance | Western


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 April 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Comando Negro  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA "High Fidelity" Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


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 »


Andrew 'Doc' Grunch: You know, you could make something of yourself if you tried.
Bob 'Shortcut' Seton: Yeah?
Andrew 'Doc' Grunch: Yeah. You could run for marshal.
Bob 'Shortcut' Seton: Me being a marshal? Are you loco?
Andrew 'Doc' Grunch: Well, you could try. It's better for a young fella like you to be working for Uncle Sam than against him.
Bob 'Shortcut' Seton: I can't even read or write. You know that!
Andrew 'Doc' Grunch: Listen, you don't read or write a man into jail.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: In those years, 1859 and on, in the dusk before the nation plunged into the red night of civil warfare, the plains of Kansas were an earlier battleground. Down from the north, down to Kansas: up from the south, up to Kansas, came hordes - each bent on voting the territory into the Union as its own. The battle cry of the day was - - "On to Kansas." See more »


Edited into Law of the Golden West (1949) See more »


Oh Susanna
Written by Stephen Foster (1846)
Played at Cantrell's Camp
See more »

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User Reviews

Duke in 'Bloody Kansas', in his first Republic 'A'-List Feature!
6 September 2006 | by (Las Vegas, Nevada) – See all my reviews

After the spectacular success of John Wayne in "Stagecoach", Republic realized they actually had an 'A'-list star...still making 'B' movies! While Duke was on loan to RKO for "Allegheny Uprising" (continuing to 'farm out' their biggest star out to major studios would provide a MAJOR source of cash for the small studio), Republic worked on creating their first 'major' western, borrowing MGM's Walter Pigeon, top Warner director Raoul Walsh (who'd directed Wayne's failed initial 'starring' role, "The Big Trail", ten years earlier), Claire Trevor (in what would be her third teaming with Wayne in two years), rising star Roy Rogers (who'd inherited the "Singing Cowboy" roles a dubbed Wayne had played in the thirties), and ever-popular Gabby Hayes (a frequent Wayne co-star for nearly a decade).

The result of all the assembled talent was a well-crafted, if still modestly-budgeted film, showcasing Duke's charisma and 'star' quality. As an illiterate but straight-talking Texan in Lawrence, Kansas, Duke wins the hearts of the townspeople and (eventually) banker's daughter Trevor, over intellectual schoolteacher William Cantrell (Pidgeon, playing a variation of infamous Southern guerrilla fighter William Quantrell). With the beginning of the Civil War, Cantrell, showing the signs of insanity his mother (the ever-wonderful Marjorie Main) had warned him of inheriting, recruits an 'army' of mercenaries, dons a stolen Rebel uniform, and burns and pillages, with Duke in pursuit, climaxing in a last-ditch defense of Lawrence.

While very 'fast and loose', historically, "Dark Command" is great fun, and the Wayne/Trevor chemistry was never more enjoyable!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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