Dark Command

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Dark Command
Dark Command 1940.jpg
1940 film poster
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Written by
Based on The Dark Command
1938 novel
by W.R. Burnett[1]
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Jack A. Marta
Edited by William Morgan
Republic Pictures
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Release date
  • April 15, 1940 (1940-04-15) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $750,000[2]

Dark Command is a 1940 Western film starring Claire Trevor, John Wayne and Walter Pidgeon loosely based on Quantrill's Raiders during the American Civil War. Directed by Raoul Walsh from the novel by W.R. Burnett, Dark Command is the only film in which western icons John Wayne and Roy Rogers appear together, and was the only film Wayne and Raoul Walsh made together since Walsh discovered Wayne working as a prop mover, renamed him, and gave him his first leading role in the widescreen western The Big Trail a decade before.

The film also features George "Gabby" Hayes as Wayne's character's sidekick.

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction by John Victor Mackay.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

Mary McCloud (Claire Trevor) marries a seemingly peaceful Kansas schoolteacher William Cantrell (Walter Pidgeon), before finding out that he harbors a dark secret. He is actually an outlaw leader who attacks both sides in the Civil War for his own profit. After capturing a wagon loaded with Confederate uniforms, he decides to pass himself off as a Confederate officer. Her naive, idealistic brother Fletcher (Roy Rogers) joins what he believes is a Rebel guerrilla force. Meanwhile, Cantrell's stern, but loving mother (Marjorie Main) refuses to accept any of her son's ill-gotten loot.

A former suitor of Mary's, Union supporter Bob Seton (John Wayne), is captured by Cantrell and scheduled for execution. After being rescued by a disillusioned Fletcher McCloud, Seton and Mary Cantrell race to the town of Lawrence (site of an actual infamous Quantrill-led massacre) to warn the residents of an impending attack by Cantrell's gang.



Director Raoul Walsh had discovered John Wayne in 1929 when Wayne was a 23-year-old prop man named Marion "Duke" Morrison. Walsh was reading a biography of General "Mad Anthony" Wayne at the time and gave the prop boy the last name "Wayne" after casting him as the lead in The Big Trail (1930), a 70 mm Grandeur widescreen epic shot on location all across the West. Dark Command remains the only other film upon which both Walsh and Wayne collaborated during their lengthy careers.

See also[edit]


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