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Santa Fe Trail (1940)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Biography, Drama | 28 December 1940 (USA)
2:12 | Trailer

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In 1854, Jeb Stuart, George Custer and other graduates from West Point are posted to Kansas to help pacify the territory before railroad construction to Santa Fe can resume.



(original screenplay)



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Cast overview, first billed only:
'Kit Carson' Holliday (as Olivia De Havilland)
Bob Holliday
Gene Reynolds ...
Cyrus Holliday
Windy Brody
Phil Sheridan
Hobart Cavanaugh ...
Barber Doyle


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


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


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 December 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Diary of the Santa Fe  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)| (Vitasound)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 »


When Jeb Stuart escapes the hanging, he fires eight shots from the stolen six-shooter. See more »


James Ewell Brown 'Jeb' Stuart: What do you do on Saturday night for fun here?
Kit Carson Holliday: Well, as I remember, half of Leavenworth takes a bath and the other half gets drunk. And since there are only two bathtubs in town, things get kind of exciting around midnight.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening card: "1854, THE UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT When the gray cradle of the American Army was only a small garrison with few cadets, but under a brilliant Commandant, named Robert E. Lee it was already building for the defense of a newly-won nation in a new world." See more »


Featured in Legal Tender (1991) See more »


Benny Havens, Oh!
Words by Lucius O'Brien, John T. Metcalfe, Ripley A. Arnold, and others
Music Traditional ("The Wearing of the Green")
Sung by the soldiers at the farewell party at Fort Leavenworth
See more »

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User Reviews

In The Tradition of Gone With the Wind
8 May 2007 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

When Santa Fe Trail was released in 1940 it was to general critical acclaim. Though it is in no way a classic like Gone With the Wind, it's view of the coming Civil War is not too dissimilar from the David O. Selznick film that also had Olivia DeHavilland as one of its stars. It was a popularly held view of the time, the abolitionists were well intentioned rabble rousers who brought on the Civil War and as Errol Flynn as J.E.B. Stuart says, the south will settle the slavery issue in its own time.

Back in the day even in A westerns like Santa Fe Trail, liberal use of the facts involving noted historical figures was taken. The fact that Stuart, Custer, Longstreet, Pickett, Sheridan, and Hood would all graduate West Point in the same class was really a minor bending of the rules. The following year with Errol Flynn as Custer in They Died With Their Boots On, they got Custer's graduation class right, but then compounded his life with more errors.

One interesting fact that no one mentions in this film is Henry O'Neill as the real life Cyrus K. Holliday (1826-1900) who considerably outlived just about everyone portrayed in the film. He's of critical importance in Kansas history as having built the Santa Fe railroad. His children neither went to West Point as William Lundigan, did graduating with all these Civil War heroes, nor did his daughter wind up marrying one.

Olivia DeHavilland playing her usual heroine, gets out of the crinoline for a bit as a Calamity Jane type daughter to Henry O'Neill. I have to say she showed quite a bit more spunk than her normal range of leading ladies at the time at Warner Brothers. She certainly Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan as George A. Custer on their toes.

If people remember anything at all about Santa Fe Trail today it is Raymond Massey as the fanatical John Brown. Yet even there, Brown has his hypocritical moments when he's quite ready to let a barn full of recent runaway slaves burn down so he can kill Errol Flynn in it. It doesn't ring true with the character as defined by Massey, I fault the scriptwriters there. Massey repeated his John Brown character in the later Seven Men From Now. Other than Abraham Lincoln it is the role that actor is most identified with.

As an action western though, Santa Fe Trail can't be beat. The battle scene with the army breaking John Brown's siege at Harper's Ferry is well staged. You really do think you are at Harper's Ferry watching a newsreel.

Though it never was history and hasn't worn well in its interpretation, western fans will still like Santa Fe Trail.

23 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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