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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 »
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 »
John Wayne (as Bob Seton) stars in a Civil War-era film wherein he runs for Marshall of a Kansas town, against wicked schoolteacher Walter Pidgeon (as Will Cantrell). Of course, they are rivals for the attention of a woman - beautiful Claire Trevor (as Mary McCloud). Roy Rogers adds additional charm as brother McCloud. The story is rather more ordinary than intriguing, but the western scores on several fronts
First, the direction by Raoul Walsh is outstanding. The production is well-mounted; it includes the expected exciting climax, but that's not all... Even better than the climatic ending is a spectacular sequence involving a stagecoach. Don't miss it! The indoor scenes are great, too. Watch the scenes in the Barber Shop, for example: witness the sets, direction, and photography. The placement of characters and objects, along with the great street outdoors, provide terrific visual depth.
The story doesn't do the production justice, however. And, some of the performances are merely adequate; and, sometimes they seem unfocused. Mr. Pidgeon's is probably the most consistent of the main players. Mr. Wayne and some of the players might have improved with some additional worked on their characterizations; and, if the story was sharper, "Dark Command" might have been a truer classic.
******* Dark Command (1940) Raoul Walsh ~ John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Walter Pidgeon
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