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Santa Fe Trail (1940)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Biography, Drama  |  28 December 1940 (USA)
6.3
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 2,095 users  
Reviews: 68 user | 16 critic

The story of Jeb Stuart, his romance with Kit Carson Holliday, friendship with George Custer and battles against John Brown in the days leading up to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

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(original screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
'Kit Carson' Holliday (as Olivia De Havilland)
...
...
...
William Lundigan ...
Bob Holliday
...
Rader
Gene Reynolds ...
Henry O'Neill ...
Cyrus Holliday
Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams ...
Windy Brody
Alan Baxter ...
...
Martin
Moroni Olsen ...
David Bruce ...
Phil Sheridan
Hobart Cavanaugh ...
Barber Doyle
Edit

Storyline

The story of Jeb Stuart, his romance with Kit Carson Holliday, friendship with George Custer and battles against John Brown in the days leading up to the outbreak of the American Civil War. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

America's Pioneer Heroes Come To Life ! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 December 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Camino de Santa Fe  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The song, "Benny Havens, Oh!" (sung by the soldiers at the farewell party at Fort Leavenworth) is a song from West Point. Benny Havens ran a public house near by West Point Military Academy. The writing of the song in his establishment by a Lieutenant O'Brien is commemorated in a mural in the Benny Havens Room of the West Point Army Mess. See more »

Goofs

The final battle takes place in a building called "The Arsenal". The Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry was actually a complex of manufacturing, storage, and office buildings. During the fighting, John Brown's force finally took refuge in the Fire House, one of the smallest of the buildings on the Armory grounds. The Fire House was built of brick but had three large wooden doors through which the firefighting equipment could move. See more »

Quotes

Cyrus K. Holliday: Kit, once when you were about this high, Tex and Windy brought home a wolf cub with a broken back. You nursed it for weeks, but it finally died with his head in your lap. You cried for days. But it was just a wolf cub. And it probably would have grown up to be a killer like its father.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Peep Show: Jeremy's Broke (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
(uncredited)
Music by William Steffe (circa 1856)
Played during the opening credits
Variations played as background music often
See more »

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User Reviews

A Very Unusual Mixture of Bad and Good History

"Santa Fe Trail", a 1940 film that brought a number of rising stars together, mixes gross distortion of history with an unusual, compelling and honest confrontation with the age of slavery.

Hollywood's uses (and, more often, abuses) of history fascinate me. Some films try to stick close to accounts generally accepted while others openly employ characters from real life as a launch point for stories that have little to do with actual events (hey, if Shakespeare could do it...). Many films blend fiction with fact and, usually, they serve neither well.

Director Michael Curtiz's "Santa Fe Trail" is part western, part military history, part comedic romance. Olivia de Havilland, fresh from her "Gone With the Wind" adventure, plays a frontier girl with spunk - and an ability to keep her clothes clean almost always, no matter what. She is pursued by two young army lieutenants, the soon to be legendary Confederate cavalry office, J.E.B. Stuart (Errol Flynn), and the eventually to be killed with his entire command George A. Custer (Ronald Reagan sans Bonzo). The rival suitors are typically 1940s romantics - no unfair or nasty stuff here. So sweet is the path to nuptial bliss.

The story takes place before the Civil War when the Army tried to maintain peace between pro- and anti-slavery factions in Bloody Kansas. The army officers who actually are part of history are portrayed here as being all members of the West Point Class of 1854-that would make Custer about seven years younger and earlier in graduating than was the case). No big deal.

What makes this film a remarkable document is its unflinching, for the Hollywood of the 1940s, portrayal of the evil of slavery, the pain of blacks ensnared in its web and the thundering role of John Brown, played by Raymond Massey in a powerful, gripping performance.

John Brown, the abolitionist who in life and in the film murdered slavery supporters and seized the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia was a zealot, not a madman (he refused an opportunity to plead insanity at the trial which ended in his death sentence). Massey, one of the greatest actors of all time, captures Brown's total devotion to ending slavery - he projects passion, not psychosis. It seems to me that Massey had a picture of John Brown that he was determined to bring to life, the inane or frivolous parts of the film being totally irrelevant to his mission.

Hollywood before World War II generally treated blacks as minor props (waiters, Pullman car attendants, cooks and maids). Here a black family is traumatized by truly sinister racists. Brown's condemnations of slavery are taken from his speeches and writings. The film's producer and director and script writers took a major detour from the concerted Tinseltown effort to not produce any story that might cut into box office take in the South (and elsewhere-the North was no hotbed of campaigns for racial equality).

Worth seeing because of its unique take on slavery, for the time, and Raymond Massey's towering performance.

8/10.


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