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The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Approved | | Adventure, Romance, War | July 1959 (USA)
In 1863, a Union outfit is sent behind Confederate lines in Mississippi to destroy enemy railroads but a captive southern belle and the unit's doctor cause frictions within ranks.

Director:

John Ford

Writers:

John Lee Mahin (written for the screen by), Martin Rackin (written for the screen by) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Col. John Marlowe
William Holden ... Maj. Henry Kendall
Constance Towers ... Hannah Hunter
Judson Pratt ... Sgt. Maj. Kirby
Hoot Gibson ... Sgt. Brown
Ken Curtis ... Cpl. Wilkie
Willis Bouchey ... Col. Phil Secord
Bing Russell ... Dunker
O.Z. Whitehead ... Hoppy Hopkins
Hank Worden ... Deacon Clump
Chuck Hayward ... Union Captain
Denver Pyle ... Jackie Jo
Strother Martin ... Virgil
Basil Ruysdael ... Commandant
Carleton Young ... 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 »

Genres:

Adventure | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

July 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der letzte Befehl See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Color by Deluxe)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the more historically accurate scenes is the destruction of the railroad property at Newton Station. Some of the rails were heated, then bent (sometimes twisted in other instances) around the telegraph poles. This act produced what many soldiers would call "Sherman's neckties. Other soldiers took heated rails and threw then into water. Both actions were designed to render the rails--then made of iron, not steel-unusable. The iron rails would for the most part be too brittle to use again. See more »

Goofs

During the 'hospital' scene after the Newton Station fight, Dr Kendall asks for Laudanum and is told there is no more. After the skirmish at the bridge, Kendall tells Col Marlowe he cannot see his wounded, they need quiet and he's given them all the Laudanum he has. If he was out of Laudanum at Newton Station, where did he obtain more during the pursuit? See more »

Quotes

Miss Hannah Hunter: [bending over with a plate of chicken, revealing ample cleavage] Do you prefer the leg... or the breast?
Col. John Marlowe: I've had quite enough of both, thank you.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Mavericks (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Lorena
(uncredited
Music by J.P. Webster
Lyrics by Henry D.L. Webster
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Under-rated American Civil War movie.
8 April 2005 | by barnabyrudgeSee all my reviews

General critical consensus seems to feel that John Ford's The Horse Soldiers is a bit of a let-down, at least by the dizzyingly high standards of the director. However, it's quite liberating if you try to forget that you're watching a John Ford movie and just treat it as an American Civil War movie like any other. Then, the film's qualities become more apparent. Yes, The Horse Soldiers is inferior to many of the other John Ford movies. But Ford working at half-speed is still better than most directors working at the peak of their powers. And The Horse Soldiers is still a fascinating, exciting and expertly told war film.

Colonel John Marlowe (John Wayne) is ordered by the Union generals to lead his army 300 miles into the Confederacy, where they are to sabotage and disrupt the vital railway supply town of Newton Station as much as possible. After a disastrous few months of lost battles and heavy casualties, the Union generals are determined to swing the battle back in their favour before the arrival of winter. Marlowe is unhappy to learn that his orders include allowing army surgeon Major Kendall (William Holden) along on the mission. Since the death of his wife at the hands of two blundering surgeons, Marlowe has had little respect for those in the medical profession. To further complicate matters, a feisty Southern belle, Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers) with Confederate sympathies, overhears Marlowe informing his men that Newton Station is the target, and that once the town has been raided the Union forces plan to head for the safety of Baton Rouge. In order to secure her silence, Marlowe has to take her prisoner and suffer her sharp Southern tongue (plus escape attempts) during the trip.

The Horse Soldiers is filmed in loving detail, with gorgeous autumnal backdrops. Its story is very interesting, especially the volatile relationship between Wayne and Holden, and the mission itself provides excitements along the way. In particular, a street battle at Newton Station is memorable, as is a scene later in the film when the Union soldiers come under attack from an army of Confederate army cadets still at schoolboy age. Towers' character is written as a very cunning and feisty woman, who disguises her attributes by coming across as a melodramatic, gossipy airhead. Towers plays the part well, but because of how she's encouraged to handle the role she becomes rather irritating too. One disappointing moment in the film comes when Wayne and Holden reach breaking-point with each other and ride off to a secluded glade to slug it out. The sequence is set to be a real humdinger, but is curiously cut short by the arrival of the enemy forces. On the whole, though, The Horse Soldiers is a good, solid Civil War entertainment, well worth a look.


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