The Last Command (1955 film)

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The Last Command
Poster of the movie The Last Command.jpg
Original Australian film poster
Directed byFrank Lloyd
Produced byFrank Lloyd
Screenplay byWarren Duff
Allen Rivkin
Story bySy Bartlett
StarringSterling Hayden
Anna Maria Alberghetti
Richard Carlson
Arthur Hunnicutt
Ernest Borgnine
J. Carrol Naish
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyJack A. Marta
Edited byTony Martinelli
Production
company
Republic Pictures
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
  • August 3, 1955 (1955-08-03) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Last Command is a 1955 Trucolor Western film directed by Frank Lloyd starring Sterling Hayden, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Richard Carlson, Arthur Hunnicutt, Ernest Borgnine and J. Carrol Naish based on the life of Jim Bowie and the Battle of the Alamo.

Plot summary[edit]

In 1835, Jim Bowie discovers uneasy disputes between the Mexican government and the North American immigrants who've settled in Texas. Dozens of American men, including Stephen F. Austin have been arrested for supposedly igniting rebellions against the Mexican governor Juan Almonte and the Mexican garrisons throughout Texas. Bowie attends a meeting of the Texian malcontents, listens to their arguments but urges calm and patience. When several of the Texians confront Bowie that he is not only a large landowner and he is married to a daughter of a Mexican Lieutenant Governor. Bowie says these things are true. When faced with accusations he is disloyal to the North American settlers, Bowie, who has only recently used his influence to free William Travis from arrest, leaves. After his departure, Mike "the Bull" Radin, a hot head Texian challenges Bowie to a knife fight. Bowie wins the fight and the respect of Mike.

On his return home Bowie is arrested by Mexican soldiers and brought to General Santa Anna. Unlike other films depicting the Texas War of Independence, Bowie and Santa Anna are friends and respect each other. Bowie relates the concerns of the Texians and notices Santa Anna has a Napoleon complex. He advises Santa Anna to free the arrested political prisoners and return Mexico to following the terms of the 1824 Constitution of Mexico. The two men agree to disagree but Santa Anna informs Bowie of the real reason his soldiers had brought him to him; Bowie's wife and children have died in a cholera epidemic.

Bowie becomes a heavy drinker and a drifter. He eventually sides with the Texians when he meets with Stephen Austin who tells him pacifism is no longer an option. After leading a band of mounted fighters in victory against Mexican dragoons at the Grass Fight, he and his men arrive in San Antonio de Bexar where he remains with his men. With tempers increasing between Travis and Bowie, both colonels in the Army of Texas. Mike suggests the garrison of the Alamo vote for their commander with Bowie winning and Travis becoming his second in command. The command expect reinforcements that never come. When Colonel Davy Crockett arrives, rather than the tales of his one thousand men, Crockett only has 29 fighters.

Santa Anna's army besieges the Alamo, and though allowing the women and children to leave in peace, Captain Dickinson's wife and Consuelo de Quesada, who loves Bowie refuse to go.

During the siege Santa Anna and Bowie meet one more time under a flag of truce with each man understanding the other's view that events have spiralled out of anyone's control. Bowie refuses to surrender the Alamo or to sit out the battle as Santa Anna's prisoner. Later Bowie is severely injured when seizing a Mexican cannon and bringing it back to the Alamo; his increasing ill health lead Bowie to grant full command to Travis who by know have come to respect each other.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

John Wayne[edit]

The project first emerged at Republic Films in 1948 as The Alamo, written by Patrick Ford, John Ford's son as a vehicle for the studio's biggest star, John Wayne.[1] In 1950 it was announced Wayne would produce, direct and star in the film.[2][3]. The project was going to be filmed after Wayne did The Quiet Man for Republic; Paul Fix and James Edward Grant had reworked the script.[4]

"I've always wanted to direct ever since I came into pictures," said Wayne, who had just begun producing with The Bullfighter and the Lady.[5] He planned to make the film in Tucana, Mexico.[6] Robert Clarke was announced for a key role.[7]

However Republic Pictures head Herbert Yates and Wayne clashed. Wayne wanted to film the project in Mexico but Yates wanted to shoot it in Texas. Wayne was also unhappy that Yates wanted the actor to make the film for Republic, instead of making it for Wayne's company and distribute through Republic. It resulted in Wayne leaving Republic, an association that had existed since 1935, despite the fact that Wayne had a contract to make three more films for the studio.[8][9]

"Yates will have to make me a darned good offer to make another picture with him," said Wayne. "I'm fed up with him."[8]

Five years later Wayne would play Davy Crockett in, as well as direct, the three-hour-plus Todd-AO production The Alamo, released by United Artists, that featured many elements of The Last Command in its screenplay.

Shooting[edit]

Yates decided to rework the Alamo project with other actors. Republic were not making many films in 1954 but the Alamo project was key to the year.[10] The movie was also known as The Unconquered Territory, The Texian, The Alamo and San Antonio Bexar. Frank Lloyd became attached to direct.[11]

Filming started February 1955.[12] William Witney shot the battle scenes near Fort Clark, Texas[13]. San Antonio's Sol Frank Uniform company made uniforms for the extras depicting the Mexican Army. For the foot soldiers 260 uniforms in sky blue, a colour designed for the benefit of the Trucolor cameras, with red facings and 160 red uniforms with blue facings for the mounted soldiers.

Soundtrack[edit]

Max Steiner's theme song for The Last Command, "Jim Bowie," is sung by musical star Gordon MacRae, who that year was starring in the smash hit film Oklahoma!, adapted from the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Steiner's score also re-imagines El Degüello, the Mexican song of no quarter as a bugle call.

Reception[edit]

The Los Angeles Times called it "an exciting, vigorous attraction."[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ METRO ACQUIRES NEW RAINE STORY New York Times 17 Mar 1948: 31.
  2. ^ ROLE IN WAR PATH' TO EDMOND O'BRIEN New York Times 5 Aug 1950: 9.
  3. ^ Thompson, Frank Alamo Movies 1994 Republic of Texas Press
  4. ^ Drama: John Wayne to Direct 'Alamo' in Fall Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 21 Feb 1951: B11.
  5. ^ Actor or Not, Wayne Hits Screen Jackpot: Style All His Own Works Miracles for Strong, Silent Man of Outdoors Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 4 Mar 1951: D1.
  6. ^ COAST'S STARS SUCCUMB TO THE DIRECTING URGE By HELEN GOULD HOLLYWOOD New York Times 15 July 1951: X3.
  7. ^ Drama: Ford, Darnell Hailed for Costarring; Steve McNally 'Courier' Lead Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 27 Sep 1951: A7.
  8. ^ a b Actor Wayne Finally Splits With Republic By Bob Thomas. The Washington Post 17 Nov 1952: 2.
  9. ^ Richard Carlson Gets Lead in Epic of Texas Life Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 14 Jan 1955: a8
  10. ^ NEW 5-YEAR PACT FOR VAN JOHNSON New York Times 4 May 1954: 36.
  11. ^ Drama: Frank Lloyd Readying 'Texian;' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 15 Apr 1954: A13.
  12. ^ Louella Parrsons: Starlet and Studio Both Get Excited The Washington Post and Times Herald 30 Dec 1954: 35.
  13. ^ https://truewestmagazine.com/forget-the-alamo/
  14. ^ Hayden Heads Vigorous Cast in "Last Command" Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 13 Oct 1955: B15.

External links[edit]

((William Witney}}