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Westerns are not my favorite genre as I struggle to name any that I like but I tried to go into this film with an open mind as one of the most legendary performers in the genre directs, stars in and produces it. Unfortunately John Wayne is a poor director as he struggles to pull together various incongruent plot elements and build up any anticipation for the famous battle that this film depicts. While I can admire the craft behind films such as The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) this film's subject matter did not appeal to me in addition to being poorly made. There were so many films from 1960 that would have been more deserving of a Best Picture nomination than this, Psycho (1960), La Dolce Vita (1960) etc., and it's a shame that this vanity project was forced into the lineup due to Wayne's aggressive lobbying.
The jovial Colonel Davy Crockett, John Wayne, brings soldiers from Tennessee to assist the army in Texas attempting to fight off the Mexican Army. He encounters the straitlaced Colonel William Barrett Travis, Laurence Harvey, who leads the army with the comparatively freewheeling Colonel Jim Bowie, Richard Widmark, both of whom have grievances against one another. Their conflict complicates preparations for the battle and Crockett tries to play mediator while romancing the fragile Mexican Flaca de Lopez y Vejar, Linda Cristal, who faces an unwanted arranged marriage. The men eventually band together to lead their army successfully as they face increasing attacks from the Mexicans but by the time the battle is underway the men have a strong bond between them.
The film is meant to be a tragedy as we witness three men we care about die at the hands of evil Mexicans and witness a noble white woman stare down these Mexicans as she walks away from the conflict a widow. Unfortunately we never really care about Crockett, Travis or Bowie, the stance the film takes on the conflict seems racist and lacking in nuance from a modern perspective and the final scene isn't very poignant because all of the characters are too broad to invest in emotionally. In most westerns people with opposing personalities come together for the common good but there was none of the enjoyment of Rio Grande (1950) or Hondo (1953) here just tin-eared dialogue and a lack of chemistry between the leads. Because we can never invest in these characters the film feels interminable as it is difficult to follow people you don't care about for an incredible two hours and forty seven minutes.
Wayne never seems to have a sense of where the story is in this film as the friendship between the men is never compelling and the subplots about Crockett's romance, the young boy he mentors and the futility of their plight don't come to represent a whole. Wayne was only really convincing as a romantic lead in The Quiet Man (1952) and Hondo (1953) and in both films he was helped significantly by his talented leading ladies who played off his gruffness well. Cristal doesn't have the talent of Geraldine Page or Maureen O'Hara and while she tries her best the light, comedic tone of her scenes in the film jars with the rest of the action and leaves the audience feeling bored. The acting across the board is subpar as although Wayne fares relatively well playing the same character he always played Widmark fails to register and Harvey noticeably struggles with the Southern accent. John Ford, a frequent collaborator of Wayne's, knew how to draw the best out of actors but sadly Wayne didn't pick up this skill on the set of Stagecoach (1939) or Fort Apache (1948).
There is a reason that this film has not been remembered as The Apartment (1960) or Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) has, it's just not good. Even as someone who doesn't like westerns I imagine fans of the genre would consider this film a lesser example of the genre and acknowledge it's flaws despite the involvement of Wayne. I wouldn't recommend watching this film to anybody as there is nothing of interest to be found in it.
Hard to ignore the historical innacuracy given the story's importance in that respect but what nationalist history is not mostly fabrications in the first place? I'm afraid John Wayne's persona has not aged well and my childhood hero just comes across as a pretentious, misogynistic ass. Too preachy as well and the dialogue is rubbish. Still a classic everyone should suffer through once.
It might have been great in its time but this film seems to be largely just John Wayne preaching about being a good patriotic man with ten minutes of action at the end. No strategy, no epic fight scenes, just a bit pointless. Could have been two hours shorter.
While admittedly plagued by errors in historical accuracy, the John Wayne Alamo captures the essence and feeling of the Alamo story much better than does the 2004 movie on the same subject.
Endless buildup to a disappointingly dull finale.
Typical John Wayne movie. John Ford stamped all over it.
The best inspiring movie ever made! With the best movie character ever portrayed: John Wayne as Davy Crockett! And the best movie score ever composed!
John Wayne starred in plenty of westerns. Unfortunately, his first time directing one results in one of the underwhelming films of his career.
Boring at times but still a very intriguing film with great acting and terrific cinematography.
Despite getting off to a promising start, the moment Avalon and Wayne enter the film it grinds to a halt. As mentioned before, the script is banal and preachy. Especially egregious is Crockett going into a ramble about a republic, which makes one think that Duke Marion just wanted to randomly vent his thoughts in the middle of a film.
The film is riddled with historical inaccuracies. It's funny that the Marty Robbins song used to market it tells a marginally more accurate.
Good performances from Richard Widmark and Laurence Harvey.
Dimitri Tiomkin's score is dynamic and passionate, and is the best thing about it. Every time he scores a John Wayne film he's always the biggest saving grace.