Horse Soldiers, The (1959)

Horse Soldiers, The (1959)

“War isn’t exactly a civilized business.”

During the Civil War, a cavalry brigade led by Col. Marlowe (John Wayne) is sent behind Confederate lines to destroy a railroad, accompanied by a surgeon (William Holden) who Marlowe has issues with. When the unit stops at a plantation owned by Miss Hunter (Constance Towers), she and her slave Lukey (Althea Gibson) are caught spying and taken along as prisoners during the rest of the raid.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cavalry
  • Civil War
  • Deep South
  • Doctors and Nurses
  • John Ford Films
  • John Wayne Films
  • Westerns
  • William Holden Films

Loosely based on Grierson’s Raid during the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War, this wartime-western by director John Ford gave John Wayne and William Holden their sole opportunity to co-star in a feature — and is notable for a brief (albeit interrupted) fist fight between the two when they try to “duke it out” (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

It’s also noteworthy for featuring color-line-breaking tennis star Althea Gibson as Towers’ slave Lukey:

… and for affording Towers — probably best known by film fanatics for her starring roles in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964) — her breakthrough leading role. Ford’s direction and cinematography (with support from DP William Clothier) is as top-notch as always:

… but the storyline isn’t particularly memorable (other than showing us how very, very young — or old — so many Confederate soldiers were).

Note: Watch for Anna Lee in a bit part as a Confederate mom desperate for her young son to stay behind when the only “men” left in town are sent to fight.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine direction and cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look.


One thought on “Horse Soldiers, The (1959)

  1. First viewing (2/25/22). Not must-see.

    ~ but, overall, this is one of the better films from Ford late in his career – maybe because the Mahin-Rackin script often sounds pretty good. So, much of the story is compelling even if it’s not uniquely memorable. The cast members give performances that feel alert. It held my interest more than I expected it to.

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