At the West Point Academy in 1854, cadet Carl Rader, a disciple of the fanatic John Brown, is dishonorably discharged for conspiracy. His classmates, Jeb Stuart and George Custer, graduate and are assigned to duty at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the most dangerous post in the army. On the way to Kansas, Custer and Stuart meet Cyrus Halliday, the man in charge of building the railroad to Santa Fe, and his daughter Kit Carson, with whom both soldiers fall in love. Arriving at the fort, they find the state 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 their bloody raids. During Brown’s raid 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 slave railroad, but is recognized by Rader, who takes him at gunpoint to Brown. While trying to escape, Stuart is trapped in a burning barn but is saved as Custer leads the troops to the rescue and drives Brown into seclusion. Believing that Brown’s force has been broken, Stuart and Custer are sent back to Washington, where Stuart proposes to Kit. However, far from being a broken man, Brown is planning to ignite war by raiding the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. When Brown refuses to pay Rader for his services, Rader rides to Washington to inform Stuart of Brown’s plans, and the troops arrive just in time to crush the rebellion and hang Brown.
Although the youth, William Bonney, an infamous gunslinger known as Billy the Kid, maintains that he bought Red from a stranger, Doc insists that he stole him.
Shortly after he disembarks at the Lincoln, New Mexico train depot, gun-slinging gambler Doc Holliday reunites with his old friend and former partner-in-crime, Pat Garrett. When Pat, who is now the town’s sheriff, hears that the penniless Doc is searching for his horse Red, who has been stolen, he directs his friend to the local dentist’s office. There Doc finds Red tied up outside and confronts the young man who comes to claim the horse. Although the youth, William Bonney, an infamous gunslinger known as Billy the Kid, maintains that he bought Red from a stranger, Doc insists that he stole him. Despite their disagreement, Doc takes Billy’s side when Pat tries to arrest him for theft. Annoyed, Pat orders Doc and the smooth-talking, quick-fisted Billy to leave town by sundown. Doc and Billy, however, ignore Pat’s command and play cards together in the cantina. Doc wins hand after hand from Billy and is unruffled when his rival accuses him of cheating. After Doc announces he is giving Red to Billy as a gift, however, he tries to sneak the horse out of the barn, but is caught in the act by a watchful Billy. Moments later, as Billy is about to settle down next to Red, he is shot at by an unseen assailant. In the darkness of the barn, Billy overpowers his attacker, who turns out to be a beautiful woman named Rio McDonald. While struggling to free herself, Rio condemns Billy for murdering her brother and vows to kill him. Billy admits to shooting Rio’s brother in a fight over a woman, but insists that the match was fair and gives Rio a passionate kiss. The next morning, in the cantina, Billy is approached by a stranger who identifies himself only as an enemy of Pat. The stranger enlists Billy’s help in confronting Pat and suggests they stage a mock fight as practice. Suddenly sensing a set-up, Billy draws his guns one second before the stranger does and kills him. After they learn that the stranger was actually a friend of Pat, Doc advises Billy to flee, but Billy insists on facing the sheriff.
Maintaining that he was pushed into the gunfight, Billy refuses to give himself up to Pat and his deputies, and is shot by Pat. Before Pat can fire his rifle again, Doc shoots the gun out of his hand and downs two of his deputies. As Doc and a wounded Billy are about to leave the cantina, Pat angrily declares his friendship with Doc “finished.” Doc takes Billy to recuperate at Rio’s house, unaware that Rio, his girl friend, had previously tried to kill Billy. After Doc leaves, Rio contemplates stabbing the unconscious Billy, but is unable to do the deed. Instead, Rio and her aunt Guadalupe nurse Billy through fever and chills until, one month later, he is recovered. Rio admits to Billy that she is Doc’s “girl,” but gives in to his seductive charm and kisses him. Soon after, Doc returns and learns that Rio married Billy during one of his delirious periods but has not told him about their new relationship. Although Doc is angered by Rio’s change of heart, he is more infuriated by Billy’s continued insistence that Red is his horse. To resolve the matter, Billy offers Doc a choice between Red and Rio. Doc quickly picks Red over Rio, and the two men ride off toward the desert together. When they see Pat approaching in the distance, they deduce that Rio revealed their route and then discover that she filled their canteens with sand. After a thirsty night, Doc wakes to find Billy gone and Pat at his side. Pat arrests Doc, while Billy sneaks into Rio’s house and takes her by surprise. Later, on the trail, Doc and Pat find Rio tied between two rocks, abandoned with no water. Confident that Billy will return to free Rio, Doc and Pat lie in wait for him. As predicted, Billy shows up the next morning and is apprehended. While Doc and Billy argue about whether Billy is in love with Rio, a hostile Indian group sends smoke signals announcing the white men’s presence. Pat, Billy and Doc jump on their horses and head for nearby Fort Sumner, but are soon overtaken by the Indians. Reluctantly, Pat gives Billy and Doc guns, and the three men charge madly for the fort, chased closely by the Indians. By dragging cacti behind them, the men create a moving dust storm, which causes the Indians to give up their pursuit. While the men stop at a house to rest, Pat gives owner Pablo a note to deliver to the Fort Sumner marshal. Overhearing Pat and Pablo’s conversation, Doc is about to flee on Red when he is stopped by Billy, who insists once more that the horse belongs to him. Billy challenges Doc to a duel over Red, and although Billy outdraws Doc, he is unable to shoot him. Annoyed by Billy’s sudden passivity, Doc shoots the youth’s hand and then his earlobes. Stating that Doc is the only partner he has ever had, Billy refuses to fight back, however, and the two men finally reconcile. Humiliated by Doc’s obvious preference for Billy, Pat explodes with anger and shoots Doc. The next morning, after a remorseful Pat and Billy bury their friend, Pat allows Billy to leave. As he is about to ride off, Billy invites Rio to join him, and Rio happily accepts.
The Great Train Robbery is a 1903 American silent short Western film written, produced, and directed by Edwin S. Porter. At ten minutes long, it is considered a milestone in film making, expanding on Porter’s previous work Life of an American Fireman. The film used a number of innovative techniques including composite editing, camera movement and on location shooting. The film is one of the earliest to use the technique of cross cutting, in which two scenes appear to occur simultaneously but in different locations. Some prints were also hand colored in certain scenes. However, none of these techniques were original to The Great Train Robbery, and it is now considered that it was heavily influenced by Frank Mottershaw’s earlier British film A Daring Daylight Burglary.
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 Civil War. Subthemes include J.E.B. Stuart and George Armstrong Custer as they duel for the hand of Kit Carson Holliday.
Wounded and on the run, notorious gunman Quirt Evans gallops onto a farm owned by Quaker Thomas Worth and his family and promptly collapses from exhaustion. When Quirt urgently insists upon sending a telegram, Thomas and his daughter Penelope drive him into town in their wagon. After wiring a claim to the land recorder’s office, Quirt kisses Penny and then passes out. Ignoring the doctor’s advice to rid themselves of the gunfighter, the compassionate Worth family tends to the delirious Quirt, and Penny becomes intrigued by his ravings of past loves. Days later, Quirt regains consciousness and Penny patiently explains the family’s credo of non-violence. Three weeks later, Laredo Stevens and Hondo Jeffries ride into town looking for Quirt. When Penny’s younger brother Johnny rushes home to inform Quirt of his visitors, Quirt quickly prepares to flee, and Penny, now smitten with Quirt, offers to run off with him. At the sound of approaching horses, Quirt grabs his gun and discovers that it has been emptied. Training his gun on the doorway, Quirt calmly greets Hondo and Laredo. Thinking that Quirt has the upper hand, Laredo, who has come for Quirt’s deed to the land, offers to buy his claim. When Quirt sets the price at $20,000, Laredo hands over $5,000 in gold and challenges him to come for the balance when he is able. Afterward, Quirt saddles his horse with the intention of leaving, but when Penny begs him to stay, he changes his mind. Later, while helping with the farm chores, Quirt learns that cantankerous rancher Frederick Carson has dammed up the stream that runs through the valley, thus draining the Worths’ irrigation ditches. Immediately proceeding to the Carson ranch, Quirt demands that Carson open the dam, and Carson, intimidated by Quirt’s reputation, complies. Soon after, water flows onto the Worths’ land, and in gratitude, Mrs. Worth treats a boil on Carson’s neck and plies him with baked goods. This newly attained accord between neighbors gives Quirt a sense of accomplishment. One Sunday, Penny asks Quirt to join the family for a ride. Before they leave, Marshal Wistful McClintock comes to question Quirt about a stagecoach robbery and the family swears that Quirt was with them at the time of the robbery. The marshal then asks Quirt why he resigned as Wyatt Earp’s deputy, sold his cattle spread and crossed over to the wrong side of the law soon after cattleman Walt Ennis was gunned down by Laredo in a saloon brawl. When Quirt refuses to answer, the marshal leaves. Penny then begs Quirt to steer clear of Laredo and he acquiesces because of his love for her. As Quirt and the Worths ride to the Quaker gathering, Quirt’s erstwhile sidekick, Randy McCall, stops them along the trail and decides to tag along. While the Quakers commence their meeting, Randy tells Quirt that Laredo plans to rustle a herd of cattle and suggests that they then steal the herd from Laredo and let him take the blame. As Randy finishes outlining his plot, Mr. Worth awards Quirt with a Bible for ending the feud with Carson. Fearing that he will never be able to live up to Penny’s expectations, Quirt abruptly leaves with Randy. Reaching the pass just as Laredo’s gang gallops down to stampede the herd, Quirt and Randy attack the rustlers and steal the herd from them. In the town of Rim Rock that night, Quirt and Randy celebrate their victory with showgirls Lila Neal and Christine Taylor. When Lila, sensing a change in her old flame, teases Quirt about his Bible, Quirt becomes angry and rides back to the Worth farm. Overjoyed by his return, Penny throws her arms around him just as the marshal arrives to question Quirt about the rustling. Quirt states that Lila can provide him with an alibi, causing Penny to become jealous. Although the marshal warns Quirt that he is the wrong man for Penny and will inevitably wind up at the end of a rope, Quirt decides to propose to her anyway. Instead of replying, Penny invites Quirt to join her picking blackberries. As they wander through the bushes, Quirt, prodded by Penny’s questions, recalls his childhood. Reared by the kindly Walt Ennis after his parents were massacred by Indians, the young Quirt found himself alone once again after Ennis was murdered in a saloon fight. His story completed, Quirt and Penny begin the journey home when their wagon is ambushed by Laredo and Hondo. Spooked, the horses gallop out of control, causing the wagon to plunge over a cliff into the river,
temporarily submerging both Penny and Quirt. When Penny develops a life-threatening fever due to the accident, Quirt straps on his pistol and rides to town to exact revenge. After Quirt leaves, Penny’s fever suddenly breaks, and she regains her lucidity. In town, Quirt is about to draw down on Laredo and Hondo when Penny and her family arrive in their wagon. No longer driven by revenge, Quirt surrenders his gun to Penny. As Laredo and Hondo prepare to gun down Quirt, the marshal appears and shoots them both. After Quirt renounces lawlessness in favor of farming and rides off in the Worths’ wagon with Penny, the marshal picks up Quirt’s discarded weapon from the dust.