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Dark Command (1940)
A drama of undying love.
Director: Raoul Walsh

When transplanted Texan Bob Seton arrives in Lawrence, Kansas he finds much to like about the place, especially Mary McCloud, daughter of the local banker. Politics is in the air however. It's just prior to the civil war and there is already a sharp division in the Territory as to whether it will remain slave-free. When he gets the opportunity to run for marshal, Seton finds himself running against the respected local schoolteacher, William Cantrell. Not is what it seems however. While acting as the upstanding citizen in public, Cantrell is dangerously ambitious and is prepared to do anything to make his mark, and his fortune, on the Territory. When he loses the race for marshal, he forms a group of raiders who run guns into the territory and rob and terrorize settlers throughout the territory. Eventually donning Confederate uniforms, it is left to Seton and the good citizens of Lawrence to face Cantrell and his raiders in one final clash.

Dark Command (1940)

Before the Pattern

John Wayne ruined the western for me. The whole idea of the western until Leone was in constant repetition, walking the same route every time so that subtleties could be emphasised. Since everything else was given, we could focus on the smallest things.

Real art in moviemaking is in picking the right things. Real art in movie-watching is recognising and working with those smallest things. At just this time, John Ford counselled Wayne in developing his random cadence: a few words, then a pause in an unexpected spot before continuing.

It first appeared in “Stagecoach”. It was used in place of interesting subtleties and was remarkably successful — so much so that all news announcers employ it to make their reading sound interesting. News is now a bad western.

This film is the last where John Wayne tried real acting, the kind that uses real language patterns.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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