9 March 2013 | bkoganbing
On the level of a B western
The western film Kit Carson, an independent release from United Artists in 1940 presents a rousing action filled portrayal of one of the greatest of American frontier characters. But the real Kit Carson was so much more interesting that it's almost a shame that this one is his screen epitaph.
Jon Hall plays Carson in proper frontier style with Mesquiteer like mountain men companions Ward Bond and Harold Huber. Dana Andrews is John C. Fremont noted explorer and surveyor of the west who eventually became the first Republican party presidential candidate. One thing I should dispel right away, they never quarreled over any woman, even one as beautiful as Lynn Bari. Fremont was already married to Jessie Benton, daughter of US Senator Thomas Hart Benton and Carson after living among the Indians and fathering two illegitimate children married the daughter of the governor of New Mexico when it was still in old Mexico. He even took instructions in the Roman Catholic faith to make such a marriage.
The action of about two years is compressed into approximately a few months with Fremont's expedition being the catspaw of the US government to check out California to see if it was ripe for the taking. Fremont never took a wagon train to California or anywhere else, especially since he was mapping and surveying the territory that Carson and other mountain knew about before. He had enough trouble getting him and his men over the Rockies and Sierras without women and kids along.
Both Hall and Andrews certainly do right by their characterizations of both men and I wish I could rate the film higher. Sad to say though its accuracy is so bad that it's almost on the level of a B western where they use some real life western figure and build a fictitious plot around them. Plenty of action though with Indian fights and then fights with the Mexican army in California. Kit Carson must have done well with the Saturday matinée crowd back in the day.