Urban Cinefile
"I have lived an extraordinarily full life and I can never say, what have I missed? because I haven't missed anything"  -Jackie Collins
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In 1836, as tyrannical Mexican General Santa Anna was sweeping across Northern Mexico, and Texas was a Mexican territory fighting to become a republic free of 'foreigners', The Alamo became a key garrison in a battle that became a legend. Less than 200 men, lead by a composite of professional soldier William Travis (Laurence Harvey), ex-congressman and man-of-the-people, Davy Crockett (John Wayne), and the frontiersman Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark). Bowie had a guerilla plan which Travis, the official commanding officer, refused to contemplate, fueling the bitter personal rivalry between the two. The volunteers (under Bowie), the folks from Tennessee (under Crockett) and the handful of soldiers (under Travis) all pinned their hopes on reinforcements - which never came. But when it came to it, the men chose to stay and fight, knowing the odds didn't give them a chance.

"Transferred in widescreen format and using the original Director's Cut, this is a giant of a film - even on video. The personality clash between Bowie and Travis, highlighted at the start of the film when Bowie is drunk, contrasting with Travis' snobbish officer-and-a-gentleman figure, is one of the key dramatic threads in this film. It underscores the film's human scale, and provides for the gritty poignancy of the resolute defiance that unites the 185 men in their heroic stand against Santa Anna. Indeed, the interplay between the three leaders provides much of the dramatic structure of the screenplay, a complex and well-wrought work which balances the men and the mission, the intimate and the grand. Wayne's passion for this story (imagine Phil Noyce making a film of The Eureka Stockade, say) is channeled into a big film with big themes and long on compassion. The first hour is a tour of the human territory, with an engaging rhythm and a pace that keeps us tuned. We become interested in the characters and they are the tellers of the story. The weight of the subject matter lifts the film above the level of a western or an action film; we're not chasing cheap gangsters or drug dealers, and the values at stake are those we here in Australia can only imagine: when Crockett talks about his love for the word Republic, the alternative is not a Queen in a foreign country, but political oppression. There are numerous terrific scenes, some full of danger, some of humour, some with both. And the first battle begins 2 1/2 hours into the 3 hr 15 minute film; the final, ferocious and fatal battle begins three hours from the start - so it's not a war movie. Above all, The Alamo is an engaging and spectacular tribute to the power of filmmaking - both as socio-historic document and as a flashlight into the hearts of its participants."
Andrew L. Urban

James Bowie was 41, Davy Crockett was 50, William Travis was 26.

March 6,1836...6:30a.m ... the last shots were fired. The Alamo had fallen.

After a 13 days siege by 2,000 Mexicans, 189 men (from Texas and Tennesse, had offered their lives for the freedom of Texas.

At the end of the Battle of Alamo, General Santa Anna's loss was estimated at 600 men.

The Alamo was followed by the Goliad massacre (perpetrated by order of General Santa Anna), forty-six days later, on April 21, 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto, where 783 men led by General Sam Houston defeated 1,500 Mexicans.

The battle lasted only eighteen minutes.

When it was all over, 630 men of the Mexican army were dead; 730 were prisoners.

Nine Texans lost their lives.

General Santa Anna, disguised as a peasant, was captured the following day.

The independence of Texas had been won from the tyrannical Santa Anna of Mexico.

Email this article


Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0



US (1966)

CAST: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Chill Wills, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Joseph Calleia, Richard Boone, Ken Curtis, Denver Pyle

DIRECTOR: John Wayne

PRODUCER: John Wayne

SCRIPT: James Edward Grant

CINEMATOGRAPHER: William H. Clothier

EDITOR: Stuart Gilmore

MUSIC: Dimitri Tiomkin

RUNNING TIME: 195 mins


VIDEO RELEASE: October 1999

James Bowie

Davy Crockett

John Wayne spent US$1.5 million (ten times that in today's dollars) building an exact replica of The Alamo from the blueprints, in his determination to be historically accurate. It is built close to the site of the actual battle and is a tourist attraction.

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021