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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 at the ripe old age of 27--not at the hands of "Bob Seton" but during an ambush by a Union cavalry unit, in which a Union cavalryman caught up to a fleeing Quantrill, whipped out his saber and cut off Quantrill's head. 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 »
John Wayne's first "A" film at Republic is a good story carried by a strong cast. One year after Stagecoach, he still takes second billing after Claire Trevor in their third of four pairings together. They worked extremely well together, and remained close friends for the rest of their lives. Walter Pigeon is given the part of the heavy, Roy Rogers gives the finest acting performance of his entire career, and veteran character actors Gabby Hayes and Marjorie Main round out the cast. Veteran director Raoul Walsh keeps the story moving and gives emotional depth to the characters that was unusual for Republic films at the time.
Set in pre-Civil War Kansas, when both Northerners and Southerners were scrambling to settle Kansas and decide its political position on slavery, the story revolves around an uneducated Texas cowboy, Bob Seton (Wayne), who finds himself in conflict with local schoolteacher Will Cantrell (Pidgeon) over both the job of Marshall in Lawrence, Kansas, and the hand of the local Southern banker's daughter, Miss Mary McCloud (Trevor). When Seton appears to have won not only the job, but also Mary's heart, Cantrell decides that the way to power lies through lawlessness, and forms a band of freebooters who ravage both Northern and Southern settlements, causing destruction and terror in Kansas.
While the film is not totally historically accurate, it does do a good job of portraying the viciousness and ruthlessness of pre-Civil War Kansas. It is told from the Northern point of view, and is a nice contrast to Errol Flynn's Santa Fe Trail, which came out the same year (1940) and portrays similar events in "bleeding Kansas" from a Southern point of view.
Part-Western, part-Civil War movie, Dark Command is one of Wayne's best early starring roles. Fans of his, or of the genre's will not be disappointed.
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