7.2/10
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The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Approved | | Adventure, War, Western | 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 »

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

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Judson Pratt ...
...
...
...
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Dunker - Yankee Scout Who Has Leg Amputated
...
...
Chuck Hayward ...
...
Jackie Jo
...
Virgil
Basil Ruysdael ...
The Reverend - Jefferson Military Academy
...
Col. Jonathan Miles - CSA
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

John Ford's Thundering Spectacle See more »

Genres:

Adventure | War | Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 June 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der letzte Befehl  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Because of the lead actor's vastly different political views, John Wayne was very Conservative and William Holden was Liberal, some of the animosity shown on the screen was real, a result of personal conflicts. Following the wrap each actor vowed to never again work with the other. See more »

Goofs

After the scene with the sheriff and confederate deserters, Kendall tells Miss Hunter that there's no figuring Marlowe. Kendall's rank strips appear to be blue. A doctor's strips were green. See more »

Quotes

Major Kendall: I don't understand a man like Miles giving up that easily.
Col. John Marlowe: Maybe losing that arm took some of the fight out of him.
Major Kendall: No... the man I knew could lose both arms and still try to kick you to death.
See more »

Connections

References To Catch a Thief (1955) See more »

Soundtracks

The Bonnie Blue Flag
(uncredited)
Traditional Irish tune
Lyrics by Harry McCarthy
[Sung by the Confederate column marching on the opposite side of the river]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Historically inaccurate but otherwise excellent
5 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film has the usual Hollywood-style errors about the Civil War -- men talking about Andersonville Prison months before it was established, minor diversions treated as the pivotal event of a campaign, that sort of thing. The biggest error though was the replacement of the fascinating Colonel Ben Grierson with Wayne's railroad man character. Grierson was a music teacher who was afraid of horses because one kicked him in the head as a child. Joining the Union army to fight slavery (he was a staunch abolitionist) he wanted infantry duty but was assigned to the cavalry by mistake. He turned out to be good at it and stayed in the cavalry after the war, becoming the first Colonel of the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo soldiers). It'd have been nice to see Grierson on screen.

Historical inaccuracy aside though the movie did quite well. The film showed multiple viewpoints and a fair degree of respect for most of them. It showed aspects of the war that were generally ignored in other films of the period -- the bloody horror of battlefield amputations, the desire of people to give up on the whole thing (I can't think of an earlier film that talked about deserters and the way they disrupted the southern home front), and the pain of the sheer physical destruction of the war -- a pain that affected the destroyers as well as the victims, something Gone With the Wind never quite admitted.

Some posters have complained about southern belle Hannah Hunter's overuse of sex appeal to spy on Union soldiers -- while there was no historical Hannah Hunter there were plenty of southern women who did just that, including Belle Boyd, Rose Greenhow and others. Some posters have complained about the way the film trivializes slavery -- this is unfair. It underplays slavery but never trivializes it. It shows conflicts within the Union army about the institution and addresses the issue of personal loyalty between some slaves and masters without glamorizing the institution as a whole. Does the film go far enough by modern standards? No. But it goes much farther than its contemporary and treats the slavery issue more honestly than modern travesties like Gods And Generals.

One poster actually complained about how inaccurate southern snipers were -- this is completely unfair. There was no indication that the "snipers" were specially trained men with Whitworth rifles or anything like that. They looked more like ordinary troopers out skirmishing, or perhaps the even more poorly trained militia. Ordinary soldiers fired more than 100 rounds for every hit they scored, so poor shooting on either side is nothing to be surprised about.

8 out of 10


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