Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dark Command

directed by Raoul Walsh 
photographed by Jack Marta
Agoura, Newall 
& Sherwood Forest CA 1940 
with Claire Trevor, John Wayne,
Walter Pidgeon, George Hayes,
Roy Rogers & Marjorie Main

Dark Command was the second and last film that Raoul Walsh made with John Wayne.   The first picture they did together was of course the first movie in which Wayne had a leading role, the Big Trail.  Prior to that he was an extra and a prop man employed primarily by Walsh's friend, John Ford (who apparently had a rather painful crush on this tall athletic and very pretty young aspiring actor, then billed as Duke Morrison.) It was Walsh who gave him the name of John Wayne.  I don't know why they didn't work together again after this. The film was shot soon after Ford’s Stagecoach, which established Wayne as a major star and where he also had second billing after Claire Trevor.  Dark Command is a fictional telling of the story of Quantrill's Raiders.  Here the notorious bushwacker is called Cantrell and played by the unlikely Walter Pidgeon.  The film's climax depicts the Lawrence Kansas Massacre and in no way shows its true extent, where some one hundred eighty women, men and children were slaughtered by Quantrill's pro-slavery Rangers.  As in all of Walsh's mature films, though especially here, it is very beautifully photographed with multilayered compositions in the deepest possible focus.

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