Dodge City (1939 film)

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Dodge City
Dodge City 1939 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay by Robert Buckner
Music by
Cinematography Sol Polito
Edited by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • April 1, 1939 (1939-04-01) (USA)
Running time
104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million[1]

Dodge City is a 1939 American Western film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Ann Sheridan.[2][3] Based on a story by Robert Buckner, the film is about a Texas cattle agent who witnesses the brutal lawlessness of Dodge City, Kansas and takes the job of sheriff to clean the town up. Filmed in early Technicolor, Dodge City was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year.


The action of the film starts with Colonel Dodge (Henry O'Neill) arriving on the first train and subsequently opening the new railroad line that links Dodge City with the rest of the world. A few years later, Dodge City has turned into the "longhorn cattle center of the world and wide-open Babylon of the American frontier, packed with settlers, thieves and gunmen—the town that knew no ethics but cash and killing". In particular, it is Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) and his gang who kill, steal, cheat and, generally, control life in Dodge City without ever being brought to justice. As Surrett has installed one of his puppets as sheriff, the other citizens' hands are tied when it comes to arresting any of the evildoers.

Dodge's friend Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn), a lone Irish cowboy who was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Dodge City, is now on his way to the town leading a trek of settlers from the East coast. At Hatton's side is his old companion Rusty (Alan Hale), who is prepared to stay with him through thick and thin. Among the settlers are beautiful Abbie Irving (Olivia de Havilland) and her irresponsible brother Lee (William Lundigan), who, drunk, causes a stampede (which eventually kills him) and is shot by Hatton in self-defense. When the group arrive in Dodge City, Hatton is confronted with the full extent of the anarchy which is dictating everyday life there. Asked by anxious citizens—Abbie's uncle, Dr. Irving (Henry Travers) among them—to be the new sheriff, Hatton politely declines, saying he is not cut out for this kind of job.

Hatton changes his mind when, during a school outing, a young boy, Harry Cole is inadvertently killed by Surrett and his men. The new sheriff and his deputy—Rusty of course—have a hard time not just fighting the criminals but also convincing all the farmers who have been wronged by Surrett that mob rule ("Come on, boys, let's take 'em out to the plaza") is out of the question: When Yancey (Victor Jory), one of Surrett's thugs, is in jail, Hatton has to protect him against the furious men outside who, not caring for Yancey's right to a fair trial, want to take the law into their own hands and lynch him right then and there.

In the end, Hatton succeeds in both overwhelming and catching the baddies and winning Abbie's heart. Everything has been prepared for a quiet family life in newly civilized Dodge City, but Hatton is asked by Colonel Dodge to clean up Virginia City, Nevada, another railroad town more dangerous than Dodge City had ever been. Understanding how much Wade is needed to settle the West, a loving Abbie heartily suggests she and her new husband join the next wagon train for their new life together.


Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn


Although Errol Flynn was worried how audiences would accept him in Westerns, the film was a big hit and he went on to make a number of movies in that genre.[4]


  1. ^ Glancy, H. Mark (1992). "MGM Film Grosses, 1924–1948: The Eddie Mannix Ledger", Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, 12, no. 2, pp. 127–43.
  2. ^ Variety film review; April 12, 1939, page 13.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; April 22, 1939, page 62.
  4. ^ Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer * Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 80-81

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