Richard Dix, Edward Ellis, and Fred Cutler in Man of Conquest (1939)


(director: George Nichols Jr.; screenwriters: Wells Root/E. E. Paramore Jr./Jan Fortune/from story by Harold Shumate and Mr. Root; cinematographer: Joseph H. August; editor: Edward Mann; music: Victor Young; cast: Richard Dix (Sam Houston), Gail Patrick (Margaret Lea), Edward Ellis (Andrew Jackson), Joan Fontaine (Eliza Allen), Sarah Padden (Houston’s Mother), Victor Jory (William Travis), George Hayes (Lannie Upchurch), Robert Barrat (Davey Crockett) Ralph Morgan (Stephen Austin), Robert Armstrong (Jim Bowie), C. Henry Gordon(Santa Ana), Leon Ames (John Hoskins), Max Terhune (“Deaf” Smith), Pedro De Cordoba (Oolooteka), Janet Beecher (Mrs. Lea), Kathleen Lockhart (Mrs. Allen), Ferris Taylor (Jonas Lea); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel; Republic Pictures; 1939)
“Competent but uninspiring biopic of Sam Houston.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

George Nichols Jr. (“Anne of Green Gables”/”Army Girl”/”Chasing Yesterday”), in b&w, directs this competent but uninspiring biopic of Sam Houston, the first president of Texas who brought the state into the Union. The mostly accurate but weak screenplay byWells Root, E. E. Paramore Jr. and Jan Fortuneleaves the Republic epic doing little justice to the story it’s based on by Wells Root and Harold Shumate.

In rural Tennessee, in 1814, Sam Houston (Richard Dix) leaves backwoods mom (Sarah Padden) and Cherokee hunting pals to joinGeneral Andrew Jackson (Edward Elli) defending New Orleans from attacking British. After war heroics, Houston pursues a career in politics. In 1829, Houston marries Eliza Allen (Joan Fontaine) and is endorsed for a second term as governor by President Jackson. Drinking problems causes his wife to leave him, and he resigns office as gossips have a field day. Houston’s loyal soldier friend Lannie Upchurch (Gabby Hayes) transports the drunken Houston to the Cherokees and he joins them to regain his sanity. In Washington, Houston fights for Cherokee rights and ends up making a bargain that has the government not kicking the Cherokees off their land and him agreeing to go to Texas and train an army to look after the Union’s interest. Houston also meets in Washington Margaret Lea (Gail Patrick) and she accompanies him to Texas. What follows is the familiar story of the Alamo, where Houston arrives too late to help the massacred Americans and is wounded when his army chases after the Alamo villain Santa Ana (C. Henry Gordon). In 1836, a month after the Alamo, at the Battle of San Jacinto, Houston defeats Santa Ana’s Mexican army of General Lopez in a short fight and the next day President Santa Ana is captured, ensuring an independent Texas. Nine years later, in 1945, Texas joins the Union and a pleased bed-ridden Houston dies.




Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”