Alamo Films

Wednesday, March 23 by Walter Turner

Alamo films are entertaining movie fare because they include intense battle scenes and the drama associated with men destined to die in combat. Many Alamo films have been made, beginning with several silent movie versions. But, few, if any, Alamo films give an accurate portrayal of the famous siege and the heroes of the battle. However, they are entertaining and often spark a desire in people to learn the true story of the battle and its participants. Below are listed some of the best Alamo films made to date.

  1. “The Alamo” (1960). This epic film, with John Wayne as the star, director, and producer is the most ambitious attempt ever made to tell the story of the Alamo. It features magnificent battle scenes and an exceptional soundtrack that is still in print. Wayne plays Davy Crockett while Richard Widmark plays Jim Bowie. Chill Wills received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role. Wayne put up a significant portion of the film's cost himself, but was unable to recoup his investment at the box office. The film was popular with audiences, but the cost of the movie was so great that it didn't make a profit in its initial release. Subsequent releases and the sale of television rights finally made the movie profitable. This Alamo film is very long, and when it is shown on television, some battle scenes are often cut.

  2. “The Last Command.” This Alamo film is the movie that Republic Pictures wanted John Wayne to make. The movie has a much smaller budget than Wayne's effort, but many viewers enjoy this picture as much as they do the big budget movie. The focus of this film is more on Jim Bowie and his pre-war friendship with Santa Ana. Sterling Hayden as Jim Bowie and Arthur Hunnicutt as Davy Crockett give some of the most outstanding performances ever seen in any of the Alamo films.

  3. “Heroes of the Alamo.” This Alamo film is intriguing in that it does not feature the primary heroes of the battle, Crockett, Bowie, and Travis, prominently. Rather, the main characters in the film are Captain Dickinson and his wife. This movie was panned by critics, but Bruce Warren and Ruth Findlay give very credible performances in this underrated Alamo film.

  4. “The Alamo” (2004). You can argue that this turkey doesn't belong on this list because it was a box office bomb and a critical failure. But, the brilliant performance of Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett merits this movie's inclusion among the best Alamo films. This picture is unique in that it, unlike any of the other Alamo films, it shows the humanity, failings and character flaws of the Alamo heroes. This is actually a very good movie, and its reputation should improve in years to come.

  5. “The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory.” This is a made-for-TV movie starring Brian Keith, James Arness, Alec Baldwin, and Lorne Greene. This is a surprisingly good Alamo film that was shot on the same location as John Wayne's movie. It makes use of some stock footage, but the final battle scene is very well done. This Alamo film also presents one of the more accurate portrayals of the siege and battle.

  6. “Martyrs of the Alamo.” If you like silent movies, check this Alamo film out. It was shot in 1915 and stars Allan Sears and Alfred Paget, who give excellent performances as Crockett and Bowie. Walter Long is also entertaining as Santa Ana as he hams up the role. The director, Christy Cabanne, was a D.W. Griffith disciple who liked what he saw in one of the bit players. Soon, Cabanne would make him a major movie star and international celebrity. The bit actor was Douglas Fairbanks.

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