Santa Fe Trail (1940)

Not Rated   |    |  Adventure, Biography, Drama


Santa Fe Trail (1940) Poster

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.


6.3/10
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  • Olivia de Havilland and William Lundigan in Santa Fe Trail (1940)
  • "Santa Fe Trail" Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn 1940 Warner Bros.
  • John Litel and Raymond Massey in Santa Fe Trail (1940)
  • Alan Hale and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams in Santa Fe Trail (1940)
  • Lane Chandler and John Litel in Santa Fe Trail (1940)
  • Errol Flynn in Santa Fe Trail (1940)

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8 May 2007 | bkoganbing
5
| In The Tradition of Gone With the Wind
When Santa Fe Trail was released in 1940 it was to general critical acclaim. Though it is in no way a classic like Gone With the Wind, it's view of the coming Civil War is not too dissimilar from the David O. Selznick film that also had Olivia DeHavilland as one of its stars. It was a popularly held view of the time, the abolitionists were well intentioned rabble rousers who brought on the Civil War and as Errol Flynn as J.E.B. Stuart says, the south will settle the slavery issue in its own time.

Back in the day even in A westerns like Santa Fe Trail, liberal use of the facts involving noted historical figures was taken. The fact that Stuart, Custer, Longstreet, Pickett, Sheridan, and Hood would all graduate West Point in the same class was really a minor bending of the rules. The following year with Errol Flynn as Custer in They Died With Their Boots On, they got Custer's graduation class right, but then compounded his life with more errors.

One interesting fact that no one mentions in this film is Henry O'Neill as the real life Cyrus K. Holliday (1826-1900) who considerably outlived just about everyone portrayed in the film. He's of critical importance in Kansas history as having built the Santa Fe railroad. His children neither went to West Point as William Lundigan, did graduating with all these Civil War heroes, nor did his daughter wind up marrying one.

Olivia DeHavilland playing her usual heroine, gets out of the crinoline for a bit as a Calamity Jane type daughter to Henry O'Neill. I have to say she showed quite a bit more spunk than her normal range of leading ladies at the time at Warner Brothers. She certainly Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan as George A. Custer on their toes.

If people remember anything at all about Santa Fe Trail today it is Raymond Massey as the fanatical John Brown. Yet even there, Brown has his hypocritical moments when he's quite ready to let a barn full of recent runaway slaves burn down so he can kill Errol Flynn in it. It doesn't ring true with the character as defined by Massey, I fault the scriptwriters there. Massey repeated his John Brown character in the later Seven Men From Now. Other than Abraham Lincoln it is the role that actor is most identified with.

As an action western though, Santa Fe Trail can't be beat. The battle scene with the army breaking John Brown's siege at Harper's Ferry is well staged. You really do think you are at Harper's Ferry watching a newsreel.

Though it never was history and hasn't worn well in its interpretation, western fans will still like Santa Fe Trail.

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