“Jeb, I'm frightened. That boy is crippled for life. And that man on the train, he died for a principle. A man killed for a principle. One of them is wrong, but which one?”
“Who knows the answer to that, Kit. Everybody in America is trying to decide.”
“Yes, by words from the east, and by guns from the west. But one day, the words will turn into guns.”
Santa Fe Trail is one of those films that I watched because I like the actors in it. I had to see this because I adore Olivia de Havilland and like her pairing with Errol Flynn. What I got was an almost two hour bore fest.
Jeb Stuart (Flynn) is a student at West Point before the Civil War. He is from the south and constantly gets into arguments with a northerner named Rader (Van Heflin) about slavery and southern attitudes. Jeb does not really argue he listens to Rader belittling the south and holds his tongue. Jeb’s friends George Custer (Ronald Reagan) and Bob Holliday are usually the ones to fire back with something to Rader. Jeb finally fights back one night when Rader goes too far. He is brought into the office of the head of the college, General Robert E. Lee. George, Bob, and a few other of Jeb’s friends back him up and say they were also part of the fight. General Lee punishes the group by sending them out to a fort in the middle of the Kansas Territory. For Rader he has expelled from the school.
At graduation, Bob’s father and sister are in the audience. His sister Kit yells out in excitement when his name. Everyone looks at her including George and Jeb. For the rest of the graduation Kit looks over by Jeb and George and afterwards they each try to flirt with her.
Jeb, Bob, George, Kit and their father are all on the train out to the Kansas Territory. The father tells the soldiers that they are being sent out there because the territory is not a state and it does not know whether it wants to enter the Union as a slave state or free state and a rouser named John Brown has been causing trouble to free the slaves. On the train are slave hunters who are looking to bring back slaves that have run away. The slaves are on the train with John Brown’s brother. The brother is thrown off the train and another man is hurt after their altercation.
There is more to the story but it got really boring and I stopped paying attention. What a great movie reviewer I am I know, I know. The rest of the film is just a back and forth of Jeb’s troop trying to get a hold of John Brown and stopping his rebellion. And if you know your USA history in any way you will know that Brown is captured at Harper’s Ferry (and I only remember that because there is a really nice painting of the moment Brown is arrested in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City).
Santa Fe Trail is not a well known classic film and probably the only reason why it is known at all today is because it is a film pairing Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan is in it. I hate the fact that de Havilland was throw in this film as just a love interest. There really was no reason whatsoever for her to be in this a lesser actress could have been cast instead. Michael Curtiz’s direction is as always is great. Unless you are a fan of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland together or Ronald Reagan (or just curious to see a president as an actor) Santa Fe Trail is not really worth the time to watch. It was not terrible it was just boring and long. Santa Fe Trail is available to view in full on YouTube.