Santa Fe Trail (1940)

 Santa Fe Trailsanta fe trail postr
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Robert Buckner
Warner Bros.

First viewing/Netflix rental


Caption: Leavenworth, Kansas: Where the railroad and civilization ended, the Santa Fe Trail began. The old Spanish road from Mexico, now lusty with new life and a new motto – “God gets off at Leavenworth and Cyrus Holliday drives you from there to the Devil.”

This is an OK Western with an excellent supporting performance by Raymond Massey.

The main setting for the story is in “Bloody” Kansas just prior to the Civil War when settlers were fighting about whether the territory would enter the Union as a Slave or Free State.  We begin at West Point where J.E.B. Stuart (Errol Flynn), George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), James Longstreet and other officers that would be prominent on both sides of the Civil War are cadets under Superintendent Robert E. Lee.  Stuart and a cadet named Rader (Van Heflin) get into a violent argument over abolition. Politics have no place in the Army and Lee punishes Stuart and Custer by sending them to the 2nd Cavalry, the “Suicide Regiment” trying to keep order in Kansas.  Rader, on the other hand, is booted out of the service.

When our heroes arrive in Kansas they soon meet pretty Kit Carson Holliday (Olivia de Havilland), daughter of a local freight handler and prospective railroad mogul..  Both fall for her but her heart soon belongs to Stuart.  There is little peace before the regiment is called on to combat abolitionist fanatic John Brown (Raymond Massey) and his followers, which now include Rader, who are rampaging through the countryside.  With Alan Hale and Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams as comic relief.

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This is a perfectly satisfactory action-filled Western/Civil War drama.  I thought Raymond Massey was wonderful as the fiery, half-mad John Brown.



3 thoughts on “Santa Fe Trail (1940)

  1. Here we go again. That southern gentleman Jeb Stuart played with a British accent! And as usual, Flynn pulls it off beautifully. I liked this film and deHavilland and Flynn make a great screen team.
    Lately you have been watching a bunch of films that I have not seen and some look like they are worth finding. Thanks, Bea.

    • This time they don’t even put in the fig leaf that he is “Irish”. Maybe they though his accent was close enough to Southern for Hollywood? A bit like Leslie Howard’s in Gone With the Wind?

  2. True southern accents aren’t easy and when they are fake, they are really fake. So it is sometimes better that the actor not even try

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