Dakota (1945)

John Wayne, Vera Ralston, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond,
In 1871 Dakota, two crooked businessmen oppose the local wheat farmers and the railroad development, in order to control the town of Fargo.
  • 6.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Lawrence Hazard, Howard Estabrook, Carl Foreman, Writer:
  • Joseph Kane, Director:
  • Producer:

All subtitles:



8 / 10

A Perfect Saturday Morning Western

This is the most enjoyable "B" Western I'd seen in quite awhile. It is fast-paced, mostly light-hearted yet doesn't stint on the serious implications of the dramatic sequences; it makes you feel and believe the human tragedies that would occur if town boss Bender (Ward Bond, marvelously effective and subtle as smooth-talking and thoughtful villain) were to be successful at bankrupting his fellow townspeople, paving the future railroad towns with the rubes' broken dreams. John Wayne was starting to solidify the nucleus of the stock company of supporting actors he would make many movies with in the future (on hand besides Bond are Paul Fix, Walter Brennan, Grant Withers, Olin Howard, Bruce Cabot, and Mike Mazurki.

Wayne is perfectly cast as the rough-and-tumble gambler who falls for railroad heiress Vera Rhuba Ralston, much to father Hugo Haas' chagrin who is a rather slick and powerful operator himself. The twist here is that Ralston is as cunning and devious as her Dad and new husband combined, and is continually effective in steering things in the direction she wants them to flow. Not normally a Ralston fan, I thought she played the role with flair, attractiveness, and a perfect energy level. She doesn't have the on-screen chemistry with Wayne that Maureen O'Hara or Gail Russell later did, but when your husband owns the studio, you don't want to allow the chemistry to get too real-looking. Ona Munson as "Jersey" is hotter and makes both her scenes memorable. Walter Brennan is perfectly cast as a persnickety riverboat captain, and Nick Stewart provides able comic assistance as his blunt first mate(Racially stereotyped, of course, but still very funny, and not at all demeaning if you look at it objectively). Bond and Mazurki are excellent as the deceptive villains. Fix and Withers are professional and provide subtle special touches as Bond's hired guns.

Given the budget and the generally pedestrian record of Director Kane, this is actually a surprisingly well made. My demands/expectations of this oater were small when I tuned it in on the Encore Western channel. I was looking for a fast-paced, check-your-brains-at-the-door oater to have on in the background as I picked up around the apartment. Instead, not only is it tautly directed, fast-paced, wry, and well-acted, but it has an extremely well-crafted adapted screenplay from Carl ("High Noon") Foreman. The insights conveyed by the script, even including some of the background and "throwaway" lines, are literate and register long after the lines have passed.

Overall, this movie can be recommended on many levels. Deapite it's quite modest roots, it is a durable, high-spirited, well-acted, and well-directed oater that also is exceptionally well-written. Not the type of title that will impress your art-house buddies, unless they accept your challenge and actually watch it before they write it off. Those actually watch it are in for special treats.

3 / 10

Big John saves the wheat fields.

John Wayne plays a gambler that comes to the aid of wheat farmers being swindled by crooked land grabbers. This is a fast paced 82 minute Republic Pictures movie with an obvious low budget look. A pretty good shoot 'em up though. Other stars include Ward Bond, Walter Brennan and Nick Stewart. Was not impressed with Wayne's love interest Vera Ralston. Burning of the wheat fields is dramatic. And of course The Duke saves the day.

6 / 10

Those Burning Fields of Wheat

Dakota finds John Wayne running off with Vera Hruba Ralston, daughter of railroad magnate Hugo Haas. A whim of Ralston's finds them on the way to Dakota Territory instead of the Duke's planned trip to California.

Before long Wayne finds himself mixed up with the local farmers and their running battle with town boss of Fargo, Ward Bond and his three loathsome sidekicks Mike Mazurki, Paul Fix, and Grant Withers. Mike Mazurki is a particularly nasty individual here, he probably has the best performance in the film.

Dakota was directed by Joseph Kane who directed at Republic a whole lot of Roy Rogers B westerns and he uses the same fast pace here. The running time is only 82 minutes and a Wayne film from Republic was an A product for that studio by 1945.

One big drawback in Dakota is the portrayal by Nick Stewart as Walter Brennan's crew on his river steamboat. It's a pretty bad stereotype one of the worst I've ever seen on film.

Dakota also shamelessly rips off the wheat burning scene from Samuel Goldwyn's The Westerner. I wouldn't be surprised if Goldwyn let Yates use some of the footage from The Westerner for a rental fee.

However fans of John Wayne and of westerns in general will like it.

7 / 10

sub-par John Wayne

This is one of the worst John Wayne flicks of the 1940s. By this point in his career, Wayne was now a star and deserved better material and a better leading lady. If you compare this film with THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, which came out the same year, the contrast is great. DAKOTA is simply a B-western with lousy and very confusing writing. While it has good supporting actors in Ward Bond and Mike Mazurki, Vera Ralston as Wayne's wife is incredibly wooden and she sports a bizarre accent that can't be accounted for in the script (her dad seemed like he had a French accent and she was Czechoslovakian). Most of the time, she's kind of pretty to look at, but becomes more of an annoyance than anything else. It was hard to figure WHY Wayne would have married such an idiot in the first place! The only reasons she got ANY roles is that her lover was the head of Republic Pictures--otherwise, she was much more of a liability than an asset. As I already mentioned, the plot is completely convoluted--and I really had to struggle to figure out what was going on. Part of this COULD have been because the movie just wasn't engaging. This is a forgettable film and only of interest to big fans of John Wayne. There are so many better Wayne films available--try watching one of them first.

5 / 10

Mild Wayne Western

John Wayne elopes with the daughter of a wealthy immigrant family. Taking off for Fargo, he squares off against nasty Ward Bond, who had his life-savings stolen and is in the process of taking land in anticipation of the coming railroad.

One of the minor Republic vehicles the Duke cranked out in the nineteen-forties, this starts out well, though it runs out of steam mid-way, ending up being okay but unspectacular and unmemorable.

Production values and performances are good, but this seems bloated, even at 83 minutes. Republic should have tightened it up and made it one of their hour-long programmers.

The best thing about this is crusty, old riverboat captain Walter Brennan. He and his sidekick almost steal the movie.