The Horse Soldiers (1959)

118-120 mins | Drama | July 1959

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HISTORY

The HR review mistakenly lists the film’s running time as 159 minutes. In Jun 1958, just prior to the start of production of The Horse Soldiers , Paramount Studios filed an injunction against William Holden in an attempt to prevent the actor, under contract to the studio, from appearing in the Mirisch Company production, United Artists release. On 13 Oct 1958, a district court denied Paramount’s request, clearing the way for Holden to appear in the film, which was shot on location in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios.
       The Horse Soldiers marked the only feature film acting role of tennis star Althea Gibson (1927—2003). Gibson became the first African-American woman to win singles championship titles at the French Open (1956), Wimbledon (1957, 1958) and the United States Open (1957, 1958). According to a biography on director John Ford, because of racial segregation laws in Louisiana, Gibson would have been forced to stay in separate housing during the shoot, so all her scenes were shot in Hollywood, with doubles used in long shots filmed on location. Songwriter Stan Jones (writer of the film’s theme song, “I Left My Love”) appeared in a small uncredited role as Gen. U. S. Grant. Jones had appeared in several Ford films in minor roles throughout the 1950s. HR news items add Buff Brady, Mike Steen, Jerome Loden, Phil Kieffer, Fred Graham and Dan Borzage to the cast, but their appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed.
       In early Dec 1958, near the end of the shoot in Natchitoches, ... More Less

The HR review mistakenly lists the film’s running time as 159 minutes. In Jun 1958, just prior to the start of production of The Horse Soldiers , Paramount Studios filed an injunction against William Holden in an attempt to prevent the actor, under contract to the studio, from appearing in the Mirisch Company production, United Artists release. On 13 Oct 1958, a district court denied Paramount’s request, clearing the way for Holden to appear in the film, which was shot on location in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios.
       The Horse Soldiers marked the only feature film acting role of tennis star Althea Gibson (1927—2003). Gibson became the first African-American woman to win singles championship titles at the French Open (1956), Wimbledon (1957, 1958) and the United States Open (1957, 1958). According to a biography on director John Ford, because of racial segregation laws in Louisiana, Gibson would have been forced to stay in separate housing during the shoot, so all her scenes were shot in Hollywood, with doubles used in long shots filmed on location. Songwriter Stan Jones (writer of the film’s theme song, “I Left My Love”) appeared in a small uncredited role as Gen. U. S. Grant. Jones had appeared in several Ford films in minor roles throughout the 1950s. HR news items add Buff Brady, Mike Steen, Jerome Loden, Phil Kieffer, Fred Graham and Dan Borzage to the cast, but their appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed.
       In early Dec 1958, near the end of the shoot in Natchitoches, LA, longtime stunt rider Fred Kennedy executed a fall from a horse improperly, broke his neck and died. According to fellow stuntmen, Kennedy had broken his neck two years earlier, but it had healed. Kennedy had appeared in several films directed by Ford and the director was greatly affected by Kennedy’s death. According to Ford biographies, after the incident he halted filming and immediately moved the production back to Hollywood. Although some modern sources suggest that Ford was so affected by Kennedy’s death that he did not complete the climactic battle of the film as scripted, a biography notes that the battle and destruction of the bridge was filmed as written.
       A tag closing of “Marlowe” and his troops riding into Baton Rouge was dropped, but a biography on Ford states that the director never intended to shoot it, as it too closely mirrored the end of M-G-M’s 1949 production Battleground with the old, exhausted troops marching in as new, fresh troops march out (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). The Dec 1958 Var article chronicling Kennedy’s death also noted that three others involved with the film suffered broken legs during the production. A modern source indicates that one of those was Ford’s son, Patrick, who also served as a location scout.
       Modern sources reveal that Mahin and Rackin initially wanted to cast Clark Gable in the role of Marlowe. The same sources state that Jack Pennick trained the 150 cadets from Jefferson Military College, who appeared in the sequence of the Confederate boy soldiers, based on real events.
       The film and novel The Horse Soldiers were loosely based on an historical event during the Civil War. A former Illinois music teacher, Union colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, was ordered to take 1,700 men on a cavalry raid from the Tennessee border through Mississippi to destroy railroad supply lines, bridges and commissaries between 17 Apr and 2 May 1863. Grierson’s disruption of Confederate supplies and successful maneuvers against their forces allowed Gen. Grant and his army to reach the Mississippi River. Soon thereafter, Grant’s men took Vicksburg, a climactic turning point for the Northern forces. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Jun 1959.
---
Box Office
22 Jun 1959.
---
Daily Variety
14 Oct 1958.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jun 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Jun 59
p. 10.
Filmfacts
22 Jul 1959.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
12 Dec 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1958
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1958
p. 4, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 1958
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Jun 59
p. 300.
New York Times
27 Jun 59.
---
Time
20 Jul 1959.
---
Variety
10 Dec 1958.
---
Variety
10 Jun 59
p. 6.
Variety
17 Jun 1959.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mahin-Rackin Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Wrt for the screen by
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Props
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Scr supv
Wrangler
STAND INS
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Horse Soldiers by Harold Sinclair (New York, 1956).
MUSIC
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home," music by Louis Lambert
"Dixie," music by Dan D. Emmett.
SONGS
"I Left My Love," words and music by Stan Jones
"The Bonnie Blue Flag," music traditional, lyrics by Harry Macarthy.
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1959
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Shreveport, LA: 18 June 1959
New York opening: 26 June 1959
Production Date:
late October 1958--8 January 1959 at Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch Co., Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 June 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14467
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Duration(in mins):
118-120
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19244
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the spring of 1863, on board a boat on the Mississippi River, Union Army Col. John Marlowe of Illinois meets Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, head of the Union forces. Frustrated by the North’s long inability to break through to the critical Southern stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Grant orders Marlowe to form a cavalry brigade and wreak havoc on Confederate supply lines within Mississippi. Marlowe presents a plan to attack the main supply depot, Newton Station, over three hundred miles behind enemy lines and wins Grant’s approval. Later while briefing his officers, Marlowe is annoyed to find that surgeon Maj. Henry Kendall has been assigned to the brigade. Perplexed by Marlowe’s unexpected hostility, Kendall asks what would become of the wounded with no aid and the colonel brusquely declares they would be left behind. Soon after, the brigade sets out and after a day’s ride is well behind Confederate lines. When Marlowe’s scouts are spotted and fired upon by a small band of Confederates, Marlowe decides to send back one unit in hopes of convincing the enemy that the entire brigade has fled. While Marlowe regroups with Maj. William Secord, of Michigan, Kendall is summoned to a nearby shack where he delivers the baby of a former slave. Angered by Kendall’s action, Marlowe places him under officer’s arrest and insists that the doctor’s duty is to the army alone. That afternoon, the cavalry arrives at Greenbriar Landing, home of Hannah Hunter, who lives alone with her black maid Lukey. Lukey is surprised when the patriotic Hannah greets Marlowe and his men effusively and invites the officers for ... +


In the spring of 1863, on board a boat on the Mississippi River, Union Army Col. John Marlowe of Illinois meets Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, head of the Union forces. Frustrated by the North’s long inability to break through to the critical Southern stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Grant orders Marlowe to form a cavalry brigade and wreak havoc on Confederate supply lines within Mississippi. Marlowe presents a plan to attack the main supply depot, Newton Station, over three hundred miles behind enemy lines and wins Grant’s approval. Later while briefing his officers, Marlowe is annoyed to find that surgeon Maj. Henry Kendall has been assigned to the brigade. Perplexed by Marlowe’s unexpected hostility, Kendall asks what would become of the wounded with no aid and the colonel brusquely declares they would be left behind. Soon after, the brigade sets out and after a day’s ride is well behind Confederate lines. When Marlowe’s scouts are spotted and fired upon by a small band of Confederates, Marlowe decides to send back one unit in hopes of convincing the enemy that the entire brigade has fled. While Marlowe regroups with Maj. William Secord, of Michigan, Kendall is summoned to a nearby shack where he delivers the baby of a former slave. Angered by Kendall’s action, Marlowe places him under officer’s arrest and insists that the doctor’s duty is to the army alone. That afternoon, the cavalry arrives at Greenbriar Landing, home of Hannah Hunter, who lives alone with her black maid Lukey. Lukey is surprised when the patriotic Hannah greets Marlowe and his men effusively and invites the officers for dinner. That evening after dining, Marlowe requests use of the room for an officer’s meeting, but Hannah insists they use the study instead. Marlowe dismisses Kendall from the meeting and the doctor, suspicious of Hannah’s ingratiating manner, insists on accompanying her to her room where he discovers the conversation in the study can be clearly heard through the open fireplace grate. Kendall turns the women over to Marlowe, who is shocked when Hannah reveals her contempt and disdain for the Union soldiers. As Hannah and Lukey have overheard Marlowe’s plans to attack Newton Station and then boldly continue through Mississippi to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the colonel is forced the bring the women with them when they depart the next day. On the ride, Hannah rebuffs Kendall’s attempt to befriend her and breaks away from the line in a desperate attempt to escape. After she is recaptured while forging the river, Marlowe demands that she promise not to attempt another escape. As the cavalry continues their journey, scouts report an enemy militia nearby and Marlowe orders a retreat into the forest. As the Confederate troops ride by, Hannah darts to the edge of the woods to get their attention but is tackled by Kendall, then knocked out by a furious Marlowe. Upon reviving, Hannah complains about her mistreatment, but grudgingly agrees not to try to signal the Confederate forces again. Later that afternoon, the Union scouts come under fire from two AWOL Confederate soldiers, who upon surrendering, reveal that the main Confederate Army has turned away from Newton Station toward Vicksburg. Marlowe pushes his men on to Newton Station where the advance led by Maj. Gray has rounded up the few remaining enemy troops guarding the town. Among the prisoners, Kendall finds longtime friend Jonathan Miles, who has lost his arm in battle as a colonel in the Confederate Army. Marlowe hopes to burn the supply depot and tracks without conflict, but when a supply train approaches the station, he notices there is no guard on it and realizes an attack is imminent. As the train pulls to a halt, Confederate soldiers pour from the cars and Miles overcomes his guard and frees the other Southern prisoners who join the attack. Marlowe rages against the ensuing brutal fight, climaxed by the one-armed Miles hoisting the Confederate flag and leading a charge. Kendall knocks Miles down to save him from being killed and later tends to his friend’s wounds at the hotel that is used as a hospital. After the fighting ends, Marlowe is surprised to find Hannah and Lukey helping Kendall and soldier “Hoppy” Hopkins. Frustrated by the high casualties, Marlowe drinks heavily at the hotel bar and as his men blow up the depot, bitterly remarks to Secord that before the war he built railroads. When Hannah expresses puzzlement over Marlowe’s venomous attack on the exhausted Kendall, Marlowe confesses that the ineptitude of doctors killed his wife years earlier. After completely destroying the surrounding railroads, Marlowe and his troops depart south while Hoppy accompanies the wounded north. While passing through a small town, Confederate scouts fire upon Marlowe’s troops and, to Hannah’s despair, Lukey is killed. Several of the men offer Hannah their sympathy and Marlowe offers to let her go, but she admits it is too late to stop them. Continuing south, Marlowe’s scouts report a Confederate unit across the river and Marlowe decides to attack the following morning. Unknown to the Union troops, a Confederate messenger has sought assistance from a nearby military institute, pleading for the young cadets to help distract the enemy until reinforcements arrive. The next morning, Marlowe is outraged to discover that a soldier has died during an amputation operation and when he admonishes Kendall, the irate doctor challenges him to a fight. The men’s fistfight is interrupted by a surprise assault by the Confederate unit. Both forces are then amazed by the arrival of the school cadets in their full dress uniforms, who take up an orderly position and fire upon Marlowe’s men. Refusing to attack the cadets, Marlowe calls a pullback, leaving the enthusiastic cadets to believe they have routed the enemy. Marlowe’s troops circle around the river and, upon receiving word that a larger enemy force is trailing them, press on southward, seeking refuge in a swamp to avoid conflict. Arriving at a crucial bridge crossing, Marlowe tells Hannah that as the Confederates are just an hour behind them, he will leave her there. As the troops prepare to cross the river, however, a Confederate squad opens fire on them and Marlowe is shot in the ankle. Hannah assists Kendall in tending to Marlowe, who then leads his men in a fierce attack against the enemy. After dispersing the enemy, the Union troops mine the bridge, then cross into Louisiana. Kendall surprises Marlowe by requesting to remain behind with the numerous wounded, despite the likelihood that he will be captured and sent to the notorious Andersonville prison. Marlowe bids a guardedly respectful farewell to the doctor, then as he says goodbye to Hannah, admits he has fallen in love with her. Marlowe then lights the bomb fuse and dashes across the bridge, which explodes just as the Confederates arrive. +

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

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