7.2/10
7,327
67 user 29 critic

The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Approved | | Adventure, Romance, War | July 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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Writers:

(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by) | 1 more credit »
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1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

July 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der letzte Befehl  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Lukey's dialogue was originally written in a stereotypic "Negro" dialect that Althea Gibson found offensive. She informed John Ford that she would not deliver her lines as written. Though Ford was notorious for his intolerance of actors' demands, he agreed to modify the script. See more »

Goofs

Although the film takes place in 1863, Dr. Kendall is shown boiling surgical instruments to prevent them from infecting patients, a process that was not developed until 1879, by Dr. Louis Pasteur. See more »

Quotes

Col. John Marlowe: The Major seems to be out of uniform. Where are your sidearms, Kendall?
Major Kendall: If you check the book, Colonel, you'll see that a Regimental Surgeon doesn't wear one.
Col. John Marlowe: [Angrily, to Gen Hurlburt] First you cut out our artillery, then the wagons, and now you want to saddle us with a medical unit!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Mavericks (1990) 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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