Dark Command (1940)

92-94 mins | Western | 15 April 1940

Director:

Raoul Walsh

Cinematographer:

Jack Marta

Editor:

William Morgan

Production Designer:

John Victor Mackay

Production Company:

Republic Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

According to a HR news item, this was Republic's biggest budget production in over a year and cost approximately $750,000 to film. Other HR news items noted that the film's production stopped on 23 Dec 1939 because actress Claire Trevor, who was ill with a serious case of strep throat, could not continue with the picture for several weeks. Director Raoul Walsh shot around Trevor for the previous week, however, the production could not advance further without her. Production resumed in early Feb 1940.
       The character of Will Cantrell was loosely based on the actual historical figure William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865), a former teacher turned outlaw who pillaged the states of Kansas and Missouri during the early part of the Civil War. In 1862, he became a Confederate officer and formed a notorious guerrilla band known as "Quantrill's Raiders." On 21 Aug 1863, Quantrill led his Raiders, which included Jesse and Frank James and the Younger Brothers, in a brutal attack against the people of Lawrence, Kansas, a Union stronghold. As the war was ending, Quantrill was killed by Federal forces in Kentucky.
       Reviews consulted were very positive in their assessment of the film and predicted its popularity at the box office. Modern sources confirm that the picture did very well for Republic and for John Wayne's career. It was nominated for Academy Awards in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) and Music (Original Score) categories. It was the third picture that co-starred Trevor and Wayne within a year. Their earlier films together were Stagecoach (see below) and Allegheny Uprising (see above), both ... More Less

According to a HR news item, this was Republic's biggest budget production in over a year and cost approximately $750,000 to film. Other HR news items noted that the film's production stopped on 23 Dec 1939 because actress Claire Trevor, who was ill with a serious case of strep throat, could not continue with the picture for several weeks. Director Raoul Walsh shot around Trevor for the previous week, however, the production could not advance further without her. Production resumed in early Feb 1940.
       The character of Will Cantrell was loosely based on the actual historical figure William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865), a former teacher turned outlaw who pillaged the states of Kansas and Missouri during the early part of the Civil War. In 1862, he became a Confederate officer and formed a notorious guerrilla band known as "Quantrill's Raiders." On 21 Aug 1863, Quantrill led his Raiders, which included Jesse and Frank James and the Younger Brothers, in a brutal attack against the people of Lawrence, Kansas, a Union stronghold. As the war was ending, Quantrill was killed by Federal forces in Kentucky.
       Reviews consulted were very positive in their assessment of the film and predicted its popularity at the box office. Modern sources confirm that the picture did very well for Republic and for John Wayne's career. It was nominated for Academy Awards in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) and Music (Original Score) categories. It was the third picture that co-starred Trevor and Wayne within a year. Their earlier films together were Stagecoach (see below) and Allegheny Uprising (see above), both released in 1939. They made one additional film together, The High and the Mighty , directed by William Wellman in 1954.
       Modern sources include Dick Alexander, Yakima Canutt, Hal Taliaferro, Edmund Cobb, Ernie Adams, Jack Rockwell, Harry Woods, Harry Cording, Frank Hagney, Dick Rich , John Dilson, Clinton Rosemond, Budd Buster, Howard Hickman, John Merton, Al Taylor, Mildred Gover, Jack Low, Ferris Taylor, Edward Earle, Joe McGuinn, Harry Strang, Tex Cooper and Jack Montgomery in the cast. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Apr 40
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 Apr 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 40
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 40
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
8 Apr 40
p. 15.
Motion Picture Herald
9 Mar 40
p. 63.
Motion Picture Herald
13 Apr 40
p. 38.
New York Times
11 May 40
p. 15.
Variety
10 Apr 40
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Supv film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Dark Command by W. R. Burnett (New York, 1938).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 April 1940
Premiere Information:
Lawrence, KS opening: 4 April 1940
Production Date:
29 November--23 December 1939
early February--mid February 1940
Copyright Claimant:
Republic Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
15 April 1940
Copyright Number:
LP9580
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA High Fidelity Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
92-94
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5985
SYNOPSIS

In 1861, William Cantrell, a schoolteacher with a burning ambition to become a leader of men, becomes embittered when he is defeated for the post of marshall of Lawrence, Kansas by Bob Seton, an unlettered but honest cowboy. Despite his mother's pleas to remain honest, Will decides to build his empire on the clandestine running of guns and slaves among neighboring states. His mother, who insists on posing as his housekeeper so that no one will know that he comes from a family in which his father and brother were criminals, warns Will against giving in to his "bad blood," but Will refuses to listen. Will and Bob are both in love with Mary McCloud, the feisty daughter of town banker Angus McCloud, who is a Southern sympathizer. When Mary's wild, younger brother Fletch accidently kills a man who is saying insulting things about their father, Bob reluctantly arrests him. Fletch, who had previously hero-worshiped Bob, now turns against him. Mary pleads with Bob to let her brother go, and even offers to become his wife if he will release Fletch. Bob knows that it is his duty to make Fletch stand trial, however, and refuses her offer. Realizing that he may finally be able to win Mary's love, Will defends Bob at his trial during the day and at night rides with his guerillas to terrorize each jury member into voting for an acquittal. His tactics with the jury work and Fletch is soon found not guilty and released. When the Civil War breaks out, Will's men, in the guise of Confederate soldiers, begin a campaign of looting and pillaging. As ... +


In 1861, William Cantrell, a schoolteacher with a burning ambition to become a leader of men, becomes embittered when he is defeated for the post of marshall of Lawrence, Kansas by Bob Seton, an unlettered but honest cowboy. Despite his mother's pleas to remain honest, Will decides to build his empire on the clandestine running of guns and slaves among neighboring states. His mother, who insists on posing as his housekeeper so that no one will know that he comes from a family in which his father and brother were criminals, warns Will against giving in to his "bad blood," but Will refuses to listen. Will and Bob are both in love with Mary McCloud, the feisty daughter of town banker Angus McCloud, who is a Southern sympathizer. When Mary's wild, younger brother Fletch accidently kills a man who is saying insulting things about their father, Bob reluctantly arrests him. Fletch, who had previously hero-worshiped Bob, now turns against him. Mary pleads with Bob to let her brother go, and even offers to become his wife if he will release Fletch. Bob knows that it is his duty to make Fletch stand trial, however, and refuses her offer. Realizing that he may finally be able to win Mary's love, Will defends Bob at his trial during the day and at night rides with his guerillas to terrorize each jury member into voting for an acquittal. His tactics with the jury work and Fletch is soon found not guilty and released. When the Civil War breaks out, Will's men, in the guise of Confederate soldiers, begin a campaign of looting and pillaging. As Will becomes richer and more powerful, people begin to suspect him, especially as Lawrence is the only town that seems to have been free from the raids. While the war continues, sympathizers for the North and South become more and more divided in Lawrence. Because Mary's father is a strong supporter of the South, many of the townspeople turn against him and start a run on his bank. McCloud stands up to the crowd in his bank, but soon violence erupts and he is killed. Now feeling very alone and believing that Will is not only a good friend but a good Southern soldier, Mary finally agrees to marry him. Right after their marriage, Will leaves Mary to rejoin his men, whom Mary thinks are part of the Confederate army. Soon everyone but Mary knows what Will is and the town begins to hate her. Bob decides to resign his job and leave Lawrence because he is disgusted by recriminations against Mary, then comes to her aid upon learning that a crowd is planning to run her out of town for the crimes of her husband. Bob begs her to leave Will, but she still refuses to believe the stories of her husband's spoils and insists that he take her to Will's camp. Before they reach the camp, Bob asks Mary to leave Will and come to Texas with him, but she refuses to be disloyal to Will, even though she now realizes that she loves Bob. At the camp, Mary sees that Will's "soldiers" are actually an unruly band of outlaws, and when she sees that Will is living in splendor, she knows that the stories about him have been true. When she and Fletch, who earlier had idealistically joined Will's men, learn that Will has ordered Bob arrested and sentenced to death, they realize that they must save him. Hearing that Lawrence is the next stop on Will's dark command, Fletch helps Bob escape and they ride to town to warn everyone. As Lawrence is consumed in the guerilla's flames, Will's mother is killed while trying to stop her son and Will is shot by Bob. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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