The Horse Soldiers

The Horse Soldiers

John Ford (1959)

PG Certificate


Our Score
This stirring American Civil War epic was not liked on its release by fans of the great western director John Ford: it's not really a western and it seemed dramatically unconvincing. Today, however, Ford's marvellous set pieces and stunning use of landscape are genuinely thrilling, and there's nostalgic value in seeing two great lamented movie stars (John Wayne and William Holden) teamed and contrasted so cleverly: it's medic Holden who mouths the liberal sentiments. The film is based on a true incident (the 1863 Grierson raid deep into the south to cut supply lines to Vicksburg), and Ford tells the tale straight and true; but the sequence that stays in the memory is that of the southern military cadets being ordered to lay down their young lives for the cause to the sound of fife and drum. Music is expertly used, as David Buttolph's score includes a range of army choruses, and the combination of the soundtrack and photographer William Clothier's stunning images makes this a minor masterpiece from a major director.


A Union cavalry officer is ordered to demolish a railway junction in the middle of Confederate territory, but finds his authority constantly challenged by a military surgeon assigned to accompany him. John Ford's Western, based on an actual Civil War incident, starring John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Hoot Gibson and Anna Lee.

Cast & Crew

Col John Marlowe John Wayne
Maj Henry Kendall William Holden
Hannah Hunter Constance Towers
Lukey Althea Gibson
Brown Hoot Gibson
Mrs Buford Anna Lee
Sheriff Russell Simpson
Gen Grant Stan Jones
Wilkie Ken Curtis
Col Phil Secord Willis Bouchey
Boys' school commandant Basil Ruysdael
Gen US Grant Carleton Young
Director John Ford
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: United Artists Corp. LtdAvailable on: video, DVD and Blu-ray