Alamo, The (1960)

Alamo, The (1960)

“I hope they’re remembered; I hope Texas remembers.”

Shortly after General Sam Houston (Richard Boone) tells Lt. Col. William Travis (Laurence Harvey) he needs time to build an army to oppose an impending raid by Mexican forces, Travis enlists support from Davy Crockett (John Wayne), Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark), and others in defending the Alamo.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Historical Drama
  • John Wayne Films
  • Laurence Harvey Films
  • Military
  • Richard Boone Films
  • Richard Widmark Films
  • Westerns

John Wayne directed this Oscar-nominated historical epic about the Battle of the Alamo, agreeing to cast himself as Davy Crockett in exchange for creative control, and spending much of his own money to fund it. The result is an overly long and overly earnest — albeit beautifully filmed — saga, with ample opportunities for Wayne’s Crockett and/or other characters to reflect Wayne’s conservative political views — including love of freedom and individualism. As Crockett says:

“Republic. I like the sound of the word. Means that people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat.”

The historical accuracy of this film’s storyline is apparently less than stellar, with the padded plot simply an excuse to get to the battle scenes. As Bosley Crowther put it in his review for The New York Times:

… [the] representation of the last battle for the Alamo comes after two hours of slogging through some rather sticky Western clichĂ©s. The old mission must be defended against the Mexican army coming north. Something to do with freedom. Gen. Sam Houston gives the word. Col. William Travis, the commander, is a tough, snobbish martinet. Jim Bowie hates and distrusts him. Davy Crockett is not quite sure. There are other complicating factors—women, children and such. But, in the end, the fort must be defended, and that’s what everybody does.

Harvey is arguably miscast as Lt. Col. Travis (though apparently he was a professional delight to work with):

… and Wayne and Widmark really should have shifted roles, though this was beyond their control.

Watch for Frankie Avalon in a supporting role as “Smitty”, one of Davy Crockett’s “Tennesseans”:

… and bullfighter Carlos Arruza as a member of General Santa Anna’s army.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • William Clothier’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though Oscar completists will likely want to check it out.


One thought on “Alamo, The (1960)

  1. First viewing (6/20/21). Not must-see.

    Wayne attempts a tone that appears John Ford-esque but the result is mostly a dull movie.

    Widely dismissed by both historians and Texans. Wikipedia offers this: [The film does little to explain the causes of the Texas Revolution or why the battle took place. Alamo historian Timothy Todish claims that “there is not a single scene in ‘The Alamo’ which corresponds to a historically verifiable incident”. Historians James Frank Dobie and Lon Tinkle demanded their names be removed as historical advisors.]

    A viewer at IMDb, in talking about the 2004 remake, says: [DO NOT watch the 1960 John Wayne film!!! Just about the only thing that version got right was having the Alamo located in Texas… other than that, Wayne’s version was a total work of fiction.] (Film fanatics are accustomed to true stories being inaccurate – ‘The Alamo’ seems to go way out of its inaccurate way.)

    Not being a historian or Texan, I can’t vouch for any of the above. However, I can tell you I took many breaks during the watching of this movie. It was draining. Much of the dialogue felt clunky.

    The actual fighting sequences were reasonably well done but I could never shake the feeling throughout that things here and there felt… off.

    Inexplicably, Chill Wills – in a small supporting role in which he basically does a standard Chill Wills routine – was nominated for an Oscar (!). Wills took out an ad in Variety, saying “the film’s cast was praying harder for Chill Wills to win his award than the defenders of the Alamo prayed for their lives before the battle.” (He lost.)

    A controversial and tacky movie.

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