77 user 24 critic

Santa Fe Trail (1940)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Biography, Drama | 28 December 1940 (USA)
2:13 | Trailer
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.


Michael Curtiz


Robert Buckner (original screenplay)



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Errol Flynn ... Jeb Stuart
Olivia de Havilland ... 'Kit Carson' Holliday (as Olivia De Havilland)
Raymond Massey ... John Brown
Ronald Reagan ... George Armstrong Custer
Alan Hale ... Tex Bell
William Lundigan ... Bob Holliday
Van Heflin ... Rader
Gene Reynolds ... Jason Brown
Henry O'Neill ... Cyrus Holliday
Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams ... Windy Brody
Alan Baxter ... Oliver Brown
John Litel ... Martin
Moroni Olsen ... Robert E. Lee
David Bruce ... 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


A Magnficent Portrayal of a Thrilling Era ! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

28 December 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Diary of the Santa Fe See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA See more »


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)| Mono (Vitasound)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Ronald Reagan got the part of George Custer on the strength of his success playing George Gipp in Knute Rockne All American (1940). See more »


Stuart's first assignment after graduating from West Point was the U.S. Mounted Rifles in Texas, followed by the 1st Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry, not the 2nd Cavalry as depicted in the film. See more »


James Ewell Brown 'Jeb' Stuart: What do you mean trailing us halfway across Kansas?
Windy Brody: Well, we don't want you to get lost. You see, I know every wrinkle of this here country like my own face.
James Ewell Brown 'Jeb' Stuart: Well, you should. It's just as dirty!
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 »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer-colorized version. See more »


Referenced in Peep Show: Jeremy's Broke (2008) See more »


The Holliday Wagon Song
Music by M.K. Jerome
Lyrics by Jack Scholl
Sung by Alan Hale, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams and others
Played often in the background while on the trail and at the camp
See more »

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User Reviews

Historical nonsense but good fun
17 May 2003 | by schappe1See all my reviews

I grew up on Errol Flynn movies. This was one of perhaps a dozen that the local station had in the package they owned and all the neighborhood gang would congregate to watch their movie show whenever Flynn, (or Abbott and Costello) were on. I remember those times fondly and thus am apt to be more forgiving than most toward the historical inaccuracies and dated attitudes. Even 1940 is history now- it's almost been as long since then as it had since the Civil War when the film was made.

Still, you can't ignore the history and the attitudes. The film's premise is that many of the major figures of the Civil War- especially the ones who became "boy generals", were all in the West Point Class of 1854 and that several of them served in "bleeding Kansas" and at Harper's Ferry. Some of what the film depicts is true. Some of it is not. John Brown did raid in Kansas in 1855-56 and then made the raid on Harper's Ferry on 10/16/59. There he was captured and later hung. Raymond Massey nails his performance as Brown, one of the most memorable in Hollywood history, (he would play him again in 1955's "Seven Angry Men"). One wonders what would happen if Brown and Lincoln had met- would they have recognized each other? Jefferson Davis was secretary of War in 1854, (but not in 1859). Robert E Lee was the commandant at West Point in 1854 and led the relief column at Harper's Ferry. JEB Stuart, (Errol Flynn), graduated from the class of 1854, fought in Kansas and was present at Harper's Ferry. So far so good.

But George Custer, (Ronald Reagan, in a good performance), was part of the class of 1861 and was neither in Kansas or Harper's Ferry and probably never met Stuart. Philip Sheridan was class of 1953, as was John Bell Hood. George Pickett was class of 1846 and James Longstreet class of 1842, (Custer would have been three years old when Longstreet graduated). Stuart married the daughter of Union General Philip St. George Cook, who is not depicted here.

The tenor of the times is surely well represented, with moral confusion and conflict between friends. The most effective scene in the film is the one where the fortune teller, by the light of a campfire, tells all the young officers that they will someday fight one another. Their faces lighted by the flames, they react with nervous astonishment. Hollywood overlaid this confusion with their own ambivalence, stemming form the fact that white southerners were viewed as a more significant market than black audiences. Thus pro slavers are viewed with more sympathy than fanatical abolitionists and blacks are depicted in an absurd, bug-eyed, "feet don't desert me now!" fashion that is unwatchable to modern audiences and should have been to 1940 audiences but apparently wasn't. On top of that, the 1940 nervousness over the coming war is clearly reflected in these character's attitudes toward the coming war of 1861. I agree that the film is not pro slavery so much as it's against fanaticism and the John Brown/bin-Laden comparison some have made seems accurate.

If you can look past all of that, you will see the film I and my youthful friends saw years ago- another rollicking Warner Brother's adventure film, with many of the same elements in the excellent series of Flynn westerns, such as "Dodge City", "Virginia City", "They Died With Their Boots on", (which features an altogether different view of Custer's career) and "San Antonio".

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