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The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Approved | | Adventure, Romance, War | 12 June 1959 (USA)
A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind Confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply center. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the ... See full summary »



(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Deacon Clump
Chuck Hayward ...
Union Captain
Jackie Jo
Col. Jonathan Miles


A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind Confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply center. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the commander. The secret plan for the mission is overheard by a southern belle who must be taken along to assure her silence. The Union officers each have different reasons for wanting to be on the mission. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


...Rides Where Only The Great Ones Go! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

12 June 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der letzte Befehl  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film marked the beginning of mega-deals for Hollywood stars. John Wayne and William Holden received $775,000 each, plus 20% of the overall profits, an unheard-of sum for that time. The final contract involved six companies and numbered twice the pages of the movie's script. The film, however, was a financial failure, with no profits to be shared in the end. See more »


At the end of the officers' conference Colonel Marlow states; "No glory hunting Richards. Anything knock this into a cocked hat it'll be a firefight." The term "firefight" did not come into use until the end of the 19th century. See more »


Matthew Brady: Roses are red, violets are blue, the camera is looking right at you... oh, I simply must have another; that man in the white coat moved.
Col. John Marlowe: That's not all he's gonna be moving.
See more »


References To Catch a Thief (1955) See more »


When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Lyrics by Louis Lambert
When Marlowe's forces split
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User Reviews

Possibly Ford's most underrated work
17 August 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The fields, woodlands and rivers of Tennassee drenched in summer sunlight are in stark contrast to the horrors of civil war as depicted in John Ford's "The Horse Soldiers". John Wayne's mission to lead a troop of Yankee soldiers behind Confederate lines to destroy a railway base vital to the South's supply lines is fraught with danger. Skirmishes inevitably result in injuries and death, the former often giving rise to amputations. Although made well before the time that the full appalingness of warfare come to be depicted in films such as "Saving Captain Ryan", from "Drums Along the Mohawk" onwards Ford never shirked the unpleasant. Incurable romantic that he was, he gave his work a hard edge whenever it was needed. Although the term "road movie" to categorise films based on journeys was not then in general usage, this fascinating work, with horses replacing cars, stands as one of the genres finest examples. And yet, judging from many of this site's user comments, it remains one of Ford's most under appreciated films. I find this rather strange as it contains most of the ingredients that are the hallmarks of those generally regarded as masterworks, westerns such as "The Searchers", "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "My Darling Clementine", not forgetting his glorious Irish romp, "The Quiet Man". A shrew is tamed, there is a measure of drunken knockabout and the soundtrack pulsates with rousing cavalry tunes and bugle calls. I have no quarrel with the fact that it is episodic rather than tightly knit. This somehow makes it all the more compatible with its journeying structure. Each episode on the way is brought out in sharp relief, be it the Southern belle's false hospitality and attempted betrayal, the central climax at the railroad station or the delightful interlude of the attack by the boy soldiers from the Confederate military academy (one of my favourite sequences from any Ford film). John Wayne plays what is almost a variation on his Ethan role in "The Searchers", his anger here not vent on Indians but on the medical profession which he holds responsible for his wife's death. His embittered relationship with his company's medical officer played by William Holden gives this otherwise picaresque film a strong dramatic unity. I can only advise those who consider this one of Ford's minor works to see it several times. From my own experience I find it emerges stronger on each viewing.

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