Monday, February 11, 2013

Santa Fe Trail (1940) with Ronald Reagan--movie in its entirety

Santa Fe Trail, Kansas
The fifth-highest grossing film of 1940, Santa Fe Trail stars Errol Flynn as J.E.B. Stuart. His frequent co-star Olivia de Havilland plays his love interest, Kit Carson Holliday. Ronald Reagan portrays his West Point 1854 'classmate' George Armstrong Custer. Historical inaccuracies abound in this film. The film is centered on abolitionist John Brown--who is painted as a villain--but not as much as Custer and Stuart's fictional classmate, Carl Rader, who was played by Van Heflin.

Custer wasn't even enrolled into West Point until 1858. However, Col. Robert E. Lee was the commandant of the academy in 1854--and was appointed by President Buchanan to lead the attack on Brown at Harper's Ferry in 1859.

On contemporary standards--this film is racist. Blacks are portrayed as noble sufferers who don't know how to cope with the freedom Brown gave them. In one scene, Brown abandons a group of slaves--leaving them to burn to death in a barn fire with Stuart. And Brown treated the Harper's Ferry hostages well--in this movie, Brown shoots one. The abolitionist stronghold of Palmyra is referred to as "the cancer of Kansas."

Michael Curtiz, who won a a Best Director Academy Award three years later for Casablanca, directs here.

Watch "Santa Fe Trail" in its entirety now.

This was Reagan's last big movie before King's Row. The future president later joined the army--just as his Hollywood career was taking off. Oh, this movie has very little to do with the real Santa Fe Trail. I suspect the title was chosen because of the popularity of westerns at the time. Most of the civilians in this film wear cowboy hats, although the Stetson Boss of the Plains hat, arguably the first cowboy hat, wasn't produced until 1865. There are some terrific character actors in this movie, including Alan Hale Sr., Ward Bond, Moroni Olsen, and Raymond Massey--who plays Brown. The film ends with an ominous warning from the abolitionist, "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood." World War II had started the year before. The crimes of Nazism had to be extinguished in the same manner. The final words I leave to Reagan.
Reagan Museum, Eureka College
From a 1984 speech: "We don't lump people by groups or special interests. And let me add, in the party of Lincoln, there is no room for intolerance and not even a small corner for anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind. Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots." Note: Santa Fe Trail is in the public domain.

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