“Our job is to be a soldier, not to decide what is wrong or right.”
After graduating from West Point Academy, J.E.B. Stuart (Errol Flynn) and his friends — including future Confederacy leaders George Custer (Ronald Reagan) and James Longstreet (Frank Wilcox) — battle against a classmate (Van Heflin) who has joined forces with militant abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey).
- Alan Hale Films
- Errol Flynn Films
- Historical Films
- Michael Curtiz Films
- Olivia de Haviland Films
- Raymond Massey Films
- Ronald Reagan Films
- Van Heflin Films
This dubiously historical western features a roster of famous characters inaccurately co-existing for the sake of convenience, and an egregiously demeaning portrayal of a controversial yet critically important figure in America’s ongoing civil rights movement (John Brown). (Interestingly, Massey played Brown once again in 1955’s Seven Angry Men, giving what was apparently a much more nuanced portrayal of his life and convictions.) Santa Fe Trail is competently directed by Michael Curtiz and features typically excellent cinematography by Sol Polito, but otherwise isn’t worth seeking out unless you’re curious for some reason. (It’s available as a public domain title.) One scene does deserve mention, however: as Brown’s compatriot defends an African-American family on a train, we see a rare glimpse of the devastating racism and fear rampant across pre-Civil War America.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An attempt to show the sins of slavery and racism in a reasonably authentic light
- Sol Polito’s cinematography
No; you can skip this one.