The Dark Command

Overview

Set in the years leading up to the Civil War and its outbreak, Dark Command tells a fictionalized version of the story of William Clarke Quantrill, the schoolteacher-turned-renegade, whose raids -- ostensibly on behalf of the Confederacy -- turned Kansas into a charnel house. John Wayne plays Bob Setton, a young Texan who arrives in Lawrence, KS, in 1859 on his way west, partnered with George "Gabby" Hayes. He meets Marie McCloud Claire Trevor and her younger brother, Fletch Roy Rogers, and takes a liking to ...
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Overview

Set in the years leading up to the Civil War and its outbreak, Dark Command tells a fictionalized version of the story of William Clarke Quantrill, the schoolteacher-turned-renegade, whose raids -- ostensibly on behalf of the Confederacy -- turned Kansas into a charnel house. John Wayne plays Bob Setton, a young Texan who arrives in Lawrence, KS, in 1859 on his way west, partnered with George "Gabby" Hayes. He meets Marie McCloud Claire Trevor and her younger brother, Fletch Roy Rogers, and takes a liking to them, especially Marie. His only competition for her is William Cantrell Walter Pidgeon, the local schoolteacher, who has big ambitions in life. He is nominated for town marshal and seems a shoo-in, especially as his only rival is Bob Setton, who admits he knows nothing about the law and can't even read, but Setton wins with his honest, unpretentious speech. At the time, Kansas is riven by strife, as settlers from the North opposed to slavery and those from the South supporting it pour into the territory, and Setton has his hands full. His most difficult personal moment comes when he must arrest Fletch for shooting an anti-slavery farmer Trevor Bardette to death. Cantrell leads a campaign of terror against the jury, however, which finds the young man not guilty just as the Civil War breaks out. In the months that follow, Setton and his posse go after the raiders who are stealing and destroying huge amounts of property in Kansas on behalf of the Confederacy. He suspects Cantrell is their leader, but can't prove it, and has to tread carefully. As the raids worsen, and the war drags on -- even Marie's pro-Confederacy banker father is murdered during a run on his bank -- their conflict comes to a violent end as Cantrell launches an attack on Lawrence, vowing to destroy the town, with only Bob Setton and Cantrell's own mother Marjorie Main standing in his way.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Dark Command, budgeted at over 700,000 dollars, was only the second "A" feature ever made by Republic Pictures, and it proved that the studio, known for its B-Westerns and serials, could deliver a movie as high in quality in all departments as the best work of Warner Bros. or Paramount. John Wayne had just become a major star in Stagecoach and Republic felt compelled to come up with a vehicle to do justice to his new fame and audience. The studio bought the rights to a book about the life of notorious Civil War-era renegade William Clarke Quantrill written by W.R. Burnett, borrowed Walter Pidgeon from MGM, and acquired the services of Raoul Walsh (then the top action director at Warner Bros.), and threw in the services of two of its top B-Western talents, Roy Rogers and George "Gabby" Hayes. The resulting film was, along with John Ford's Rio Grande, one of the finest action films ever to come out of Republic (or any other studio in 1940), and, along with Ford's The Sun Shines Bright, also one of the studio's best dramas in terms of the quality of the acting. John Wayne retains the quiet energy that he showed as the Ringo Kid in Stagecoach, in a complex role that shows him evolving convincingly from an impetuous roughneck into a respectable, duty-bound enforcer of the law, torn by his own feelings for the people around him who are sometimes hurt by his actions. Walter Pidgeon gives one of the best performances of his career as schoolteacher who hides a streak of megalomania and psychosis. Claire Trevor gives a surprisingly gritty performance as a selfish woman who outgrows her lusts and prejudices. Roy Rogers turns in the best acting performance of his career as a spoiled, headstrong rich boy who discovers that there's more to life and living than he thought. Marjorie Main almost steals the movie from all of them as a conscience-stricken mother, tortured by what her son has done. Even George "Gabby" Hayes rises to the occasion with a performance that treads a fine line between comedy and drama. What's more, director Walsh and the Republic production team have forged a movie that is not only exciting from beginning to end, but manages to intersect, in plot, characterization, and images, with the best elements of Santa Fe Trail, Gone With the Wind, and even Birth of a Nation. Indeed, much of Dark Command crosses paths with the plot of Santa Fe Trail, without the latter movie's awkward jumps from drama to comedy, or any of its pretentions, either.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/28/2013
  • UPC: 887090066204
  • Original Release: 1940
  • Rating:

  • Source: Olive Films
  • Aspect Ratio: Academy Aperture (1.37:1)
  • Presentation: Black & White
  • Time: 1:34:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 14,185

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Claire Trevor Marie McCloud
John Wayne Bob Setton
Walter Pidgeon William Cantrell
Roy Rogers Fletch McCloud
George "Gabby" Hayes Doc Grunch
Porter Hall Angus McCloud
Marjorie Main Mme. Cantrell/Elizabeth Adams
Raymond Walburn Judge Buckner
Joe Sawyer Bushropp
Helen MacKellar Mrs. Hale
John Farrell MacDonald Dave
Trevor Bardette Hale
Budd Buster
Tex Cooper
Harry Cording Killer
John Dilson
Edward Earle
Mildred Gover Ellie
Frank S. Hagney
Howard Hickman
Jack Low
Cliff Lyons
Joe McGuinn
Jack Montgomery
Dick Rich
Clinton Rosemond
Harry Strang
Hal Taliaferro Townsmen
Ferris Taylor Banker
Harry Woods Dental patient
Al Bridge Slave trader
Glenn Strange Yankee
Jack Rockwell Assassin
Edward Hearn 1st juror
Edmund Cobb 3rd juror
Yakima Canutt Townsman
Tom London Messenger
John Merton Cantrell Man
Ernie S. Adams Townsman
Wally Wales Vigilante
Richard Alexander Sentry
Technical Credits
Raoul Walsh Director
Jan Fortune Screenwriter
Frederick Hugh Herbert Screenwriter
Lionel Houser Screenwriter
Grover Jones Screenwriter
John Victor Mackay Art Director
Jack A. Marta Cinematographer
William Morgan Editor
Murray Seldeen Editor
Sol C. Siegel Producer
Victor Young Score Composer
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