Eastern lawyer Sam Houston moves to Texas. At the request of President Jackson, he leads the Texan independence movement and wins the decisive battle against the Mexican army to gain Texas independence.
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George B. Seitz
After arriving in Texas to escape a scandal back east, lawyer Sam Houston just wants to hang out his shingle, keep a low profile, and stay out of any political intrigue. However, when President Jackson personally asks him to lead the fight for Texan independence, he overcomes his reluctance to become involved and leads his compatriots to the decisive victory over Santa Anna and the Mexican army to gains Texas' independence.Written by
On the first day of December, in 1832, a man rode up to a muddy stream called the Red River. When he crossed this river, he was in Texas. He was a man in search of a new life, because his previous one had left him desolated and sick at heart. He was a man of size and strength and he had history in his hands. His name was Sam Houston.
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You are foolish Señor, but not lacking in courage.
The First Texan is directed by Byron Haskin and written by Daniel B. Ullman. It stars Joel McCrea, Felicia Farr, Jeff Morrow, Wallace Ford and Rodolfo Hoyos. A Technicolor/CinemaScope production, cinematography is by Wilfrid Cline and music by Roy Webb.
McCrea plays Sam Houston, who after travelling from Tennessee to San Antonio, Texas, starts to shape Texas history in spite of his initial reluctance.
OK! So it's no Sam Houston biography of considerable substance or big bucks production values, I mean how was it ever going to be so when it only runs at just over 82 minutes? Yet this is still a very colourful and engaging picture, with the core essence of the Sam Houston story firmly put forward. We are basically watching what Huston was doing as elsewhere The Alamo was playing its part in historical legend. This means that the narrative is given to mostly talky passages as political machinations and power hungry posturings come to the fore. Thankfully, in McCrea's hands Houston comes off as a fascinating and inspiring man, which in the grand scheme of things is objective achieved.
There is, perhaps inevitably, a romantic sub-plot, which explains why the gorgeous Felicia Farr is in the movie, sadly it's not only a token characterisation, but also historically suspect to say the least. But again, take it with a pinch of salt and buy into Houston the man and it never hurts the story. It all builds towards the battle of San Jacinto, where spurred on by famous chants about remembering The Alamo, Houston led his forces to victory over General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army. Financial restraints mean we don't get the big and bold battle that history deserves, but what is on offer is deftly staged regardless, as stunt-men flail about and cannons do roar.
Nothing approaching educational class standards here, but with McCrea a strong and rugged presence, and Haskin rising above budget limitations to tell a literary story, The First Texan is as solid as a San Antonio mission built with limestone that has been cemented by a stucco layer. 7/10
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