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Santa Fe Trail (1940)

6.3
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 1,991 users  
Reviews: 67 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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Title: Santa Fe Trail (1940)

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Rise, fall and execution of John Brown, fanatic abolitionist.

Director: Charles Marquis Warren
Stars: Raymond Massey, Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter
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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:

They carved a path through the wilderness... then paved it with bullets and lives! 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

Raymond Massey starred as John Brown again in Seven Angry Men (1955), the main story of which is also the trial and hanging of the abolitionist. See more »

Goofs

The film plays fast and loose with historical fact, most noticeably in the other famous officers who are supposed to have graduated West Point with J.E.B. Stuart in 1854: James Longstreet (1842), George Pickett (1846), Philip Sheridan (1853), John Hood (1853), and George Custer (1861). See more »

Quotes

George Armstrong Custer: They're running! They're getting away!
James Ewell Brown 'Jeb' Stuart: No they're not. We're going after them!
George Armstrong Custer: Hey, wait a minute! They outnumber us three to one!
James Ewell Brown 'Jeb' Stuart: Well, if it makes you nervous, don't count 'em.
See more »

Connections

Featured in In the Shadow of Hollywood (2000) 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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