Dark Command (1940)

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    a_duk158[1].jpgPhoto with the courtesy of lasbugas

    Information from IMDb

    Plot Summary
    Texas cowpoke Bob Seton (John Wayne) comes to a Kansas town with his friend,
    Doc Crunch (George 'Gabby' Hayes),
    and runs for town marshal against school teacher Will Cantrell (Walter Pidgeon.)
    Seton is elected but loses out to Cantrell for the hand of Mary McCloud (Claire Trevor.)
    When the Civil War breaks out, Cantrell organizes a raider band,
    supposedly on the side of the South, but which, in reality,
    is nothing but a guerilla army that loots and robs from both sides.
    Cantrell has dreams of carving out his own empire out of Kansas.
    Cantrell leads his guerillas on a raid against Lawrence, Kansas,
    where they are defeated and Cantrell is killed.
    His widow finds happiness with Seton, the man she truly loves.
    Summary written by Les Adams

    Full Cast
    Claire Trevor .... Miss Mary McCloud
    John Wayne .... Bob Seton
    Walter Pidgeon .... William 'Will' Cantrell
    Roy Rogers .... Fletcher 'Fletch' McCloud
    George 'Gabby' Hayes .... Andrew 'Doc' Grunch (as George Hayes)
    Porter Hall .... Angus McCloud
    Marjorie Main .... Mrs. Cantrell, aka Mrs. Adams
    Raymond Walburn .... Judge Buckner
    Joe Sawyer .... Bushropp (guerrilla) (as Joseph Sawyer)
    Helen MacKellar .... Mrs. Hale
    J. Farrell MacDonald .... Dave (gunrunner)
    Trevor Bardette .... Mr. Hale (shot by Fletch)
    Ernie Adams .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Richard Alexander .... Phil (guerrilla guarding Seton) (uncredited)
    Earl Askam .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Hank Bell .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Ray Bennett .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Stanley Blystone .... Tough (uncredited)
    Al Bridge .... Slave trader (uncredited)
    Roy Bucko .... Brawler (uncredited)
    Budd Buster .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Yakima Canutt .... Townsman on balcony (uncredited)
    Horace B. Carpenter .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Noble 'Kid' Chissel .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Edmund Cobb .... Juror #3 (uncredited)
    Tex Cooper .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Harry Cording .... Angry townsman in bank (uncredited)
    John Dilson .... Town leader (uncredited)
    Edward Earle .... Town leader (uncredited)
    Betty Farrington .... Townswoman (uncredited)
    Joseph Forte .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Mildred Gover .... Ellie (Mary's maid) (uncredited)
    Frank Hagney .... Tough Yankee #2 (uncredited)
    Al Haskell .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Edward Hearn .... Jury foreman (uncredited)
    Howard C. Hickman .... Southerner orating for votes (uncredited)
    Lloyd Ingraham .... Townsman (uncredited)
    Jack Kirk .... Cowhand (uncredited)
    Ethan Laidlaw .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Tom London .... Messenger (uncredited)
    Jack Lowe .... Juror #2 (uncredited)
    Nelson McDowell .... Farmer (uncredited)
    Joe McGuinn .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    John Merton .... Cantrell man (uncredited)
    Jack Montgomery .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Dick Rich .... Dental patient #1 (uncredited)
    Jack Rockwell .... Assassin of Angus McCloud (uncredited)
    Clinton Rosemond .... Tom (McClouds' servant) (uncredited)
    Bob Sáenz .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Tom Smith .... Posse rider (uncredited)
    Glenn Strange .... Tough Yankee #1 (uncredited)
    Harry Strang .... Man about to withdraw his money from bank (uncredited)
    Al Taylor .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Ferris Taylor .... Banker (uncredited)
    Ethel Wales .... Townswoman (uncredited)
    Wally Wales .... Angry townsman in bank (uncredited)
    Cecil Weston .... Townswoman (uncredited)
    Henry Wills .... Guerrilla (uncredited)
    Harry Woods .... Man in fight with Seton (uncredited)
    Bob Woodward ... Yankee (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    W.R. Burnett novel The Dark Command
    Jan Fortune adaptation
    F. Hugh Herbert screenplay
    Lionel Houser screenplay
    Grover Jones screenplay

    Original Music
    Victor Young

    Jack A. Marta

    Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
    Joseph Kane .... second unit director
    Yakima Canutt .... second unit director (uncredited)
    Kenneth Holmes .... assistant director (uncredited)
    Cliff Lyons .... second unit director (uncredited)

    Yakima Canutt .... stunt coordinator (uncredited)
    Cliff Lyons .... stunts (uncredited)
    Jack Montgomery .... stunt double (uncredited)
    Henry Wills .... stunts (uncredited)
    Bill Yrigoyen .... stunts (uncredited)
    Joe Yrigoyen .... stunts (uncredited)

    The character of Will Cantrell is loosely based on the real life
    Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill.
    Like Cantrell, Quantrill was born in Ohio, taught school in
    Lawrence, Kansas, became a guerrilla fighter on the Confederate side
    and burnt Lawrence to the ground. However, the Confederacy eventually
    distanced itself from, and eventually disowned, him because of his band's
    propensity for executing prisoners, massacring civilians, looting and raping.
    The real Quantrill was killed in an ambush, beheaded by a Union
    cavalryman's saber, in Kentucky at the ripe old age of 27 instead
    of at the hands of Bob Seton.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Placerita Ranch, Newhall, California, USA
    Sherwood Forest, California, USA

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 7 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Dark Command is a 1940 Western film starring Claire Trevor, John Wayne and
    Walter Pidgeon loosely based on Quantrill's Raiders during the American Civil War.
    Directed by Raoul Walsh from the novel by W.R. Burnett,
    Dark Command is the only film in which western icons John Wayne and Roy Rogers
    appear together, and was the only movie Wayne and Raoul Walsh
    made together since Walsh discovered Wayne working as a prop mover, renamed him,
    and gave him his first leading role in the widescreen western The Big Trail a decade before.

    The film also features George "Gabby" Hayes as Wayne's character's sidekick.

    The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Original Score
    and Best Art Direction by John Victor Mackay

    I like this film, and feel I have a personal interest,
    as I had the pleasure of meeting, and spending time with Roy Rogers,
    when he toured the UK, back in the 50's!
    Republic paired the stars of Stagecoach, and Allegheny Uprising
    again in this film ,billing Claire Trevor above Duke.
    The picture was the studios, most expensive to date,, and it also united Duke
    with Raoul Walsh,for the first time since The Big Trail
    They also borrowed Walter Pidgeon from MGM, for additional prestige, and with a fine supporting cast,
    including Roy Rogers, in a rare,dramatic role, Marjorie Main (I always thought, she was spooky)
    and the dependable, Gabby Hayes.
    Duke gave a wonderful performance,and


    Bosley Crowther the critic said,
    The most pleasant surprise of the picture,is the solid performance of John Wayne, as the Marshal...
    Given a character to build, he does it with vigour, cool confidence, and casual wit.

    The film was far better received than Allegheny Uprising ,
    and it more than fulfilled it's box office potential, becoming the studios biggest moneymaker, that year.
    Producers and directors at the major studios began to give Duke, a second look,, including Cecil B. DeMille.
    DeMille previously, had kept Duke waiting for an appointment,
    after this film, he sent for him.

    Bosley Crowther commented,


    The most rousing, and colorful horse opera, that has gone thundering past this way, since, Stagecoach

    All in all, a suprisingly, very good film

    User Review

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 5 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Well, now that ethanedwards has set up this nice thread for us, I can review my review of Dark Command!!!!!

    What I meant in comparing Dark Command and Santa Fe Trail was that they are both set in the same time and place (pre-Civil war "Bleeding Kansas"), but they come from two different points of view about the war (Dark Command showing a pro-Northern view and Santa Fe Trail a pro-Southern view).

    Just look at who the heavies are. In Santa Fe Trail it's abolitionist leader John Brown, played by Raymond Massey. Brown was an anti-slavery zealot, who often did use force and violence to achieve his ends. To the South, he was a lawbreaker and anarchist, while in the North, he was seen as a man ahead of his time, a foreshadowing of the war that was to come. There's even a scene where some black folks tell Flynn they're fed up with Brown's violence. VERY pro-Southern, there!

    In Dark Command, the heavy is the Southern guerilla leader Quantrill (called "Cantrell" in the film), played by Walter Pidgeon. Quantrill was another brute of the war, he and his men continued to raid and pillage the Kansas-Missouri border country long after it had lost any strategic importance to the Southern cause. To the North, he was nothing but a renegade and outlaw, while in the South, his actions and contributions received the silent approval of the Southern government (think, the reception Flora Robson gives to Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk: "I can't officially recognize this, but thanks just the same" [paraphrase]). In fact, I believe there is a scene in Rooster Cogburn where Duke's character proudly tells Kate Hepburn about his service with Quantrill during the war.

    To sum it up, I like both Dark Command and Santa Fe Trail equally. They are two good films with two very different points of view on American history. As with everything, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as both sides were equally guilty of what they are accused here. In today's era of political correctness, Dark Command probably holds up better, but they are both well worth seeing in their own right.



    "I am not intoxicated - yet." McLintock!

  • I always liked this movie, too. It was interesting to see Walter Pidgeon play against type as the heavy. He was always the good guy, the strong father and husband in Mrs. Miniver, the popular teacher in How Green Was My Valley, the strong but sympathetic general in Command Decision. To see him go from a nice guy teacher to a cold blooded guerilla leader in Dark Command was unusual to say the least.

  • Hi Ejgreen,
    Thank you for the comment. I like both movies too and it was very interesting for me to read your review, and I didn't think before that this movies were done from the different sides of the war, you enlightened it very well.
    In True Grit Cogburn also spoke about his service at the Quantrill's forces (for a pity I haven't seen Rouster Cogburn yet).

    P.S. Thank you for the link to the reviews of your friend.

  • I have to say that it's a shame that John and Rauol Walsh didn't work together more often. I thought that Dark Command was a very good movie and so was The Big Trail.

    Dark Command has a lot of great comedy of course because of Gabby Hayes who plays a dentist and gets the duke to start fights and give people tooth aches.

    While not as sweeping as The Big Trail, this story is more tightly focused on the duke and the bad guy, who goes from being a good guy school teacher in the beginning to being a complete psychopath on a rampage at the end. It was a little hard to believe in such a drastic turn around for that character, but then again, people do a lot of stupid things to get money or what they think is entitled to them.

    One of the dukes best movies from his early career.

    [SIZE=3]That'll Be The Day[/SIZE]

  • Surprisingly good movie when you get to watch it, but nothing especially memorable that would make me to miss seeing it again

    I don't believe in surrenders.

  • Great early movie, and quite unique having 2 king of the cowboys ( athough we know who the real king is) in the same film. Does anyone know why the title is now 'Dark Command' instead of 'The Dark Command'?

    (Scottish Highlands)

  • Hi

    Interesting point about Walter Pigdeon normally playing the good guy in his pictures one other film he was dubious in was playing Morbeous in 'Forbidden Planet' a remake of The Tempest complete with Leslie Neilson and Robbie The Robot.



    Walk Tall - Talk Low

  • I watched Dark Command on DVD. This is part of the the John Wayne Collection.
    Sparkling sharp print and sound. You can see Republic spent a good deal more money on this picture with the production values and stunts from Yakima

    I felt film was a little uneven at times but generally a very good western. On this version there is the added bonus of the documentary Young Duke The Making of A Movie Star (45 minutes) narrated by Leonard Maltin being included. This covers Dukes career from the beginning to Stagecoach with lots of rare clips and footage. I know I have it on VHS and could have sworn I have it on DVD but it was a nice little bonus for £5.99 from play.com.


  • Just watched this last night, and have to say, it's one of Duke's best early 1940 films. The film proves that even at John Wayne's relatively early age, given the right dialog and director, he was a top-notch actor. Going toe-to-toe with the great Walter Pigdeon must have been intimadating for Duke, but he carries his scenes off very well.

    Extremely entertaining western...made even better by the excellent cast, great script, and a proven director.

    I'll give this one 8 out of 10 stars!