Santa Fe Trail is a 1940 American western film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey and Ronald Reagan. Written by Robert Buckner, the film is about the abolitionist John Brown and his fanatical attacks on slavery as a prelude to the American Civil War. Subthemes include J.E.B. Stuart and George Armstrong Custer as they duel for the hand of Kit Carson Holliday.
The film was one of the top-grossing films of the year, and the seventh Flynn–de Havilland collaboration. The film also has almost nothing to do with its namesake, the famed Santa Fe Trail, except that the trail started in Missouri and the railroad could be built only after the Army drove Brown out of Kansas.
The outdoor scenes were filmed at the Lasky Movie Ranch in the Lasky Mesa area of the Simi Hills in the western San Fernando Valley. One can visit the film location site, now in the very large Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (a.k.a. Ahmanson Ranch), with various trails to the Lasky Mesa locale.
At the West Point Military Academy in 1854, the Cadet Carl Rader(who is an agent of John Brown) (Van Heflin), is dishonorably discharged for spreading anti-slavery pamphlets. His classmates Jeb Stuart (Flynn) and George Custer (Ronald Reagan) become second lieutenants and are posted to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, the most dangerous duty in the army—an assignment they relish. On the way to Kansas, Custer and Stuart meet Cyrus K. Holliday, in charge of building the railroad to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and his daughter Kit (de Havilland), with whom both officers fall in love.
The Kansas Territory is 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 bloody raids. During Brown's attack 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 Railroad, but Brown's men spot Stuart horse with an army brand and he is captured and taken him at gunpoint to Brown (Raymond Massey). While trying to escape, Stuart is trapped in a burning barn but is saved as Custer leads the cavalry to the rescue and drives Brown into seclusion.
Three years go by to 1859. Believing that Brown's force has been broken, Stuart and Custer are sent back to Washington, D.C., where Stuart proposes to Kit. However, far from being defeated, Brown is planning to ignite war by raiding the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. When Brown refuses to pay Rader for his services, Rader rides to Washington to alert Stuart of Brown's plans, and the troops arrive just in time to crush the rebellion. Brown is then tried for treason by the state of Virginia, and hanged. The movie ends with Stuart and Kit being married.
The Santa Fe Trail (1940) - Full Length Movie with Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn, Olvia De Havilland.
Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ronald Reagan, Raymond Massey
Director: Michael Curtiz
Writer: Robert Buckner (original screenplay)
The story of Jeb Stuart, his romance with Kit Carson Holliday, friendship with George Custer and battles against John Brown in the days leading up to the outbreak of the American Civil War.
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