The Dark Command (1940)

The Dark Command (1940)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Dark Command Photos

Movie Info

Set in the years leading up to the Civil War and its outbreak, Dark Command tells a fictionalized version of the story of William Clarke Quantrill, the schoolteacher-turned-renegade, whose raids -- ostensibly on behalf of the Confederacy -- turned Kansas into a charnel house. John Wayne plays Bob Setton, a young Texan who arrives in Lawrence, KS, in 1859 on his way west, partnered with George "Gabby" Hayes. He meets Marie McCloud (Claire Trevor) and her younger brother, Fletch (Roy Rogers), and takes a liking to them, especially Marie. His only competition for her is William Cantrell (Walter Pidgeon), the local schoolteacher, who has big ambitions in life. He is nominated for town marshal and seems a shoo-in, especially as his only rival is Bob Setton, who admits he knows nothing about the law and can't even read, but Setton wins with his honest, unpretentious speech. At the time, Kansas is riven by strife, as settlers from the North opposed to slavery and those from the South supporting it pour into the territory, and Setton has his hands full. His most difficult personal moment comes when he must arrest Fletch for shooting an anti-slavery farmer (Trevor Bardette) to death. Cantrell leads a campaign of terror against the jury, however, which finds the young man not guilty just as the Civil War breaks out. In the months that follow, Setton and his posse go after the raiders who are stealing and destroying huge amounts of property in Kansas on behalf of the Confederacy. He suspects Cantrell is their leader, but can't prove it, and has to tread carefully. As the raids worsen, and the war drags on -- even Marie's pro-Confederacy banker father is murdered during a run on his bank -- their conflict comes to a violent end as Cantrell launches an attack on Lawrence, vowing to destroy the town, with only Bob Setton and Cantrell's own mother (Marjorie Main) standing in his way. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama , Western
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Walter Pidgeon
as William 'Will' Cantrell
John Wayne
as Bob Seton
Claire Trevor
as Miss Mary McCloud
Roy Rogers
as Fletcher 'Fletch' McCloud
Porter Hall
as Angus McCloud
Marjorie Main
as Mrs. Cantrell
Joe Sawyer
as Bushropp
Helen MacKellar
as Mrs. Hale
Alan Bridge
as Bandit Leader
Ferris Taylor
as Banker
Harry Cording
as Killer
Edward Hearn
as Juryman
Edmund Cobb
as Juryman
Tom London
as Messenger
Jack Rockwell
as Assassin
Harry Woods
as Dental patient
Dick Rich
as Cantrell Man
John Merton
as Cantrell Man
Frank S. Hagney
as Tough Yankee #2
John Dilson
as Town Leader
Budd Buster
as Townsman
Al Bridge
as Slave trader
Howard Hickman
as Vote Orator
Al Taylor
as Guerrilla
Jack Low
as Juror #2
Edward Earle
as Town Leader
Joe McGuinn
as Guerrilla
Yakima Canutt
as Townsman
Harry Strang
as Man at Bank
Tex Cooper
as Townsman
Jack Montgomery
as Guerrilla
Ernie S. Adams
as Townsman
Wally Wales
as Vigilante
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Critic Reviews for The Dark Command

All Critics (4)

Unusual Western, with eerie, sinister atmosphere, lots of political commentary, and strange relationships.

Full Review… | July 17, 2009
Classic Film and Television

Above average western covering the Quantrill territory, full of fiction over fact, and starring John Wayne and Roy Rogers.

March 22, 2008

Nominated for the Interior Decoration and Score Oscars, this John Wayne pre-Civil War adventure is better than the norm due to Raoul Walsh's direction and good cast.

Full Review… | March 11, 2008

Republic's costliest film; it was also its biggest box office hit.

Full Review… | October 8, 2005
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Dark Command

Not bad revisionist take on Quantrill's Raiders repurposed into a John Wayne vehicle. The film, the followup to Stagecoach, was the picture that actually confirmed the Duke's marketability since it ended up being a huge hit. Roy Rogers, free of Trigger for a change, does a good job as Claire's brother.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer


Wayne was still in the process of honing his on-screen persona, so this is hardly his best individual performance. Yet, the film is still entertaining. The richness of the story-telling elevates the production above the B-westerns mostly being made during the time. It's interesting to see a Civil War-era story that focuses its attention away from those battlefields to reflect on what was occurring in the often quite lawless border states. Another accomplishment of this film is that it shows how ambition can influence men differently, where one is led to become an outlaw and the other a hero. Western fans will especially want to check this one out, since it is the only film to feature both Wayne and Roy Rogers (who has a sizable supporting role).

Charles H.
Charles H.

How can you go wrong on this one? With the likes of Gabby Hayes, John Wayne, Walter Pidgeon and some other great stars rolled up in one top-knotch movie? Some of the "best of the best actors" played in this charismatic movie as Wayne was a U.S. Marshall chasing Quantrell down.

Tom Hakes
Tom Hakes

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