AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Santa Fe Trail
Alternate Title: Diary of the Santa Fe
Director: Michael Curtiz (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Dec 1940
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Santa Fe: 13 Dec 1940
Production Date:   mid-Jul--mid-Sep 1940
Duration (in mins):   110
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Errol Flynn (Jeb Stuart)  
    Olivia de Havilland (Kit Carson Halliday)  
    Raymond Massey (John Brown)  
    Ronald Reagan (George [Armstrong] Custer)  
    Alan Hale (Tex Bell)  
    William Lundigan (Bob Halliday)  
    Van Heflin ([Carl] Rader)  
    Gene Reynolds (Jason Brown)  
    Henry O'Neill (Cyrus Halliday)  
    Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (Windy Brody)  
    Alan Baxter (Oliver Brown)  
    John Litel (Martin)  
    Moroni Olsen (Robert E. Lee)  
    David Bruce (Phil Sheridan)  
    Hobart Cavanaugh (Barber Doyle)  
    Charles D. Brown (Major Sumner)  
    Joe Sawyer (Kitzmiller)  
    Frank Wilcox (James Longstreet)  
    Ward Bond (Townley)  
    Russell Simpson (Shubel Morgan)  
    Charles Middleton (Gentry)  
    Erville Alderson (Jefferson Davis)  
    Spencer Charters (Conductor)  
    Suzanne Carnahan (Charlotte)  
    William Marshall (George Pickett)  
    George Haywood (John Hood)  
    Wilfred Lucas (Weiner)  
    Russell Hicks (J. Boyce Russell)  
    Napoleon Simpson (Samson)  
    Cliff Clark (Instructor)  
    Harry Strang (Sergeant)  
    Emmett Vogan (Lieutenant)  
    Selmer Jackson (Officer)  
    Joseph Crehan (Officer)  
    De Wolfe Hopper (Officer)  
    Clinton Rosemond (Black man)  
    Ernest Whitman (Black man)  
    Bernice Pilot (Black woman)  
    Mildred Gover (Black woman)  
    Libby Taylor (Black woman)  
    Roy Barcroft (Engineer)  
    Frank Mayo (Engineer)  
    Louis Jean Heydt (Farmer)  
    Grace Stafford (Farmer's wife)  
    Lane Chandler (Adjutant)  
    Richard Kipling (Army doctor)  
    Jack Mower (Surveyor)  
    Trevor Bardette (Agitator)  
    Nestor Paiva (Agitator)  
    Georgia Caine (Officer's wife)  
    Arthur Aylsworth (Abolitionist)  
    Walter Soderling (Abolitionist)  
    Henry Hall (Abolitionist)  
    Theresa Harris (Black maid)  
    Jess Lee Brooks (Black doorman)  
    Maris Wrixon (Girl)  
    Lucia Carroll (Girl)  
    Mildred Coles (Girl)  
    Eddy Chandler (Guard)  
    Ed Cobb (Guard)  
    Ed Peil (Guard)  
    Edward Hearn (Guard)  
    Victor Kilian (Dispatch rider)  
    Creighton Hale (Telegraph operator)  
    Addison Richards (Sheriff)  
    Lafe McKee (Minister)  
    Reverend Neal Dodd (Preacher)  
    Alec Proper (Townsman)  
    John Meyer (Workman)  
    Harry Cording    
    Mira McKinney    
    James Farley    
    Alan Bridge    
    Eddy Waller    

Summary: At the West Point Academy in 1854, cadet Carl Rader, a disciple of the fanatic John Brown, is dishonorably discharged for conspiracy. His classmates, Jeb Stuart and George Custer, graduate and are assigned to duty at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the most dangerous post in the army. On the way to Kansas, Custer and Stuart meet Cyrus Halliday, the man in charge of building the railroad to Santa Fe, and his daughter Kit Carson, with whom both soldiers fall in love. Arriving at the fort, they find the state bloodstained and war-torn, a victim of John Brown's relentless crusade against slavery. Meanwhile, Rader has enlisted as a mercenary in Brown's army, which has been terrorizing the countryside with their bloody raids. During Brown's raid on a freight wagon under the protection of the U.S. Army, Stuart and Custer capture Brown's injured son Jason, and before dying, the troubled boy informs them about his father's hideout at Shubel Morgan's ranch in Palmyra. In disguise, Stuart rides into Palmyra, the center of the underground slave railroad, but is recognized by Rader, who takes him at gunpoint to Brown. While trying to escape, Stuart is trapped in a burning barn but is saved as Custer leads the troops to the rescue and drives Brown into seclusion. Believing that Brown's force has been broken, Stuart and Custer are sent back to Washington, where Stuart proposes to Kit. However, far from being a broken man, Brown is planning to ignite war by raiding the arsenal at Harper's Ferry. When Brown refuses to pay Rader for his services, Rader rides to Washington to inform Stuart of Brown's plans, and the troops arrive just in time to crush the rebellion and hang Brown. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Warner Bros.--First National Picture; Jack L. Warner in charge of production
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Michael Curtiz (Dir)
  Jo Graham (Dial dir)
  Jack Sullivan (Asst dir)
Producer: Hal B. Wallis (Exec prod)
  Robert Fellows (Assoc prod)
Writer: Robert Buckner (Orig scr)
Photography: Sol Polito (Photog)
Art Direction: John Hughes (Art dir)
Film Editor: George Amy (Film ed)
Costumes: Milo Anderson (Cost)
Music: Leo F. Forbstein (Mus dir)
  Max Steiner (Mus score)
  Hugo Friedhofer (Orch arr)
Sound: Robert B. Lee (Sd)
Special Effects: Byron Haskin (Spec eff)
  H. F. Koenekamp (Spec eff)
Make Up: Perc Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: Frank Mattison (Unit mgr)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 28/12/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP10140

PCA NO: 6559
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): John Brown
  General George Armstrong Custer
  Officers (Military)
  Slavery
  Jeb Stuart
  United States--History
 
Subjects (Minor): Disguise
  Expulsion
  Fathers and sons
  Fort Leavenworth (KS)
  Harpers Ferry (WV)
  Hideouts
  Proposals (Marital)
  Railroads
  Rescues
  Romantic rivalry
  United States Military Academy
  Washington (D.C.)

Note: The working title of this film was Diary of the Santa Fe . According to a news item in HR , it was planned as a follow-up to the success of Dodge City which also starred Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Other news items in HR note that this picture was part of a trend towards big-budget big-name Westerns. The trend was spurred by the success of Fox's 1939 film Jesse James and the Warner Bros. 1939 film Dodge City and their 1940 film Virginia City . A news item in HR adds that the film was shot on location around Santa Fe, NM. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   16 Dec 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   16 Dec 40   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 39   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jun 40   p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jul 40   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jul 40   pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Sep 40   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Nov 40   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 40   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   16 Dec 40   p. 1, 4
New York Times   21 Dec 40   p. 21.
Variety   18 Dec 40   p. 16.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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