During the Rif War in Morocco, the French Foreign Legion's outpost of Tarfa is threatened by Khalif Hussein's tribes but Sergeant Mike Kincaid devises a plan of survival until the arrival of French reinforcements.
After the American Civil War, mercenaries travel to Mexico to fight in their revolution for money. The former soldier and gentleman Benjamin Trane meets the gunman and killer Joe Erin and his men, and together they are hired by the Emperor Maximillian and the Marquis Henri de Labordere to escort the Countess Marie Duvarre to the harbor of Vera Cruz. Ben and Erin find that the stagecoach is transporting three million U.S. dollars in gold hidden below the seat, and they scheme to steal it. Along their journey, betrayals and incidents happen changing their initial intentions.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In his biography, Ernest Borgnine reports that, during the shooting, Burt Lancaster brought his children on the set and all of them laughed at Jack Elam because of his walleyed eye. Elam, of course, was upset because of this, and he had a tough argument against Lancaster in a fierce fist fight. See more »
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Opening credits prologue: As the American Civil War ended, another war was just beginning. The Mexican people were struggling to rid themselves of their foreign Emperor - - - Maximilian. Into this fight rode a handful of Americans - - - ex-soldiers, adventurers, criminals-- all bent on gain. They drifted South in small groups - - AND SOME CAME ALONE- See more »
A Forgotten Footnote to the American Civil War and Maximillian's Mexico
VERA CRUZ picks up on a bit of business from the American Civil War that is rarely discussed in our movies. Only a slight, similar comment is brought up in the film ANOTHER PART OF THE FORREST, where John Dahl plans to leave the south and fight in the Brazilian Army. It is 1870, and Dahl (an ex-Confederate officer) decides to fight for an army from the one large nation that still practices slavery. Many Confederates at the end of the Civil War sought employment outside the United States, where their military skills would be appreciated and they did not have to live under the U.S. Flag. George Pickett (of the famous charge at Gettysburg) was offered the job of Commander-in-Chief of the the army of the Khedive of Egypt (but he did not take the offer).
Many of the ex-Confederates decided to go to Mexico, because during the Civil War Maximillian was pro-Southern (as Juarez was pro-Northern), and the French who supported Maximillian were pro-Confederate (unofficially) as well. Napoleon III of France saw the Confederates as one of those "nationalities" he championed in the name of his uncle's so-called revolutionary principles. He also had a belief that the United States was growing too potentially powerful. Throughout the first two years of the war, while Lee and Jackson were doing so well in the East, Napoleon III did all he could to get the British and himself to coordinate mediating a peaceful (i.e. "pro-Confederate") solution to the war. But every time it looked like that would occur, there would be a Northern victory (Antietam Creek, Gettysburg) that upset the plan. Also the release of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 muddied the waters. It reminded the people of France and Britain that the South favored slavery.
Napoleon III was hoping a Southern victory would ensure his puppet Maximillian's Empire in Mexico would be secure. During the war he had conferences with a former Senator from California, Dr. William Gwin, who was pro-Confederate. Gwin wanted to have a portion of the Sonora state of Mexico set aside for Confederate emigrants to farm and mine.
All this collapsed on April 9, 1865 when Lee surrendered. VERA CRUZ follows the collapse of the Confederacy, and how Gary Cooper joins the exodus to link up with fellow former Rebels in Mexico, to support Maximillian. He also links up with Burt Lancaster, who leads a gang of gunslingers for hire, and the story turns on a huge gold shipment that is for Maximillain's forces. But in VERA CRUZ everyone sees this gold shipment as the key to a happy future for themselves or for their people. Cooper (the hero in the film) would like to use it for helping to rebuild the South. Lancaster and his gang (including Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson) see the riches for themselves. Maximillian (George Macready, in a very short scene - unfortunately - where he is not as sweet and well intentioned as Brian Ahearn had been in JUAREZ) - wants the money sent for future purposes. Cesar Romero and Henry Brandon are intending the money should go to France. Denise Darcel, a French aristocrat, wants the money sent to France to - for herself.
There are plenty of films about gold and how it brings greed out of everyone, and VERA CRUZ is one of the best. It is not settled until the end who will get the gold - and only after one last gunfight after the battle.
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