Cast & Crew
Upon the conclusion of the Civil War, field correspondent Barry Conovan and photographer Sam Sawyer of the Chicago Daily Herald are sent by their editor to find General Sam Houston, the missing one-time president of the old Republic of Texas. On a stagecoach bound for Huntsville, they meet Jane Baxter Scott, the daughter of one of Houston's old Confederate comrades. Along the trail, the stage comes upon pregnant Sarah Olson, whose husband has just been killed by outlaw raiders. They stop at a seemingly deserted cabin so that she may give birth, and there Barry finds a cache of new rifles. Henry Clay Jackson then arrives at the cabin with a group of riders and claims to be Jane's fiancé, making suspect her previous romantic attentions toward Barry. Later, Barry and Sam are welcomed upon their arrival in Huntsville by Major Lamphere, the military governor of the district. There, a homecoming party is held for Jane, during which her father, Colonel Colbert Scott, who was thought killed in the war, returns. Meanwhile, the raiders rob the local bank, and after the banker kills one of the outlaws, Jackson murders him, then pretends to lead the posse. One of the soldiers, however, recognizes Robert Houston Scott, Jane's younger brother, as one of the raiders. Later that night, Robert sneaks into the Scott home and tells his father and his aunt, Hattie Florence, that he is now part of a guerrilla army, lead by Jackson, which is set on winning back Texas' independence. Jackson then leads a murderous raid upon the Indian agency run by Luther Crittenden. Sam tries to photograph the raiders as they make their escape, but he snaps a picture showing only a right boot and spur. Jackson later shoots Barry while the newspaperman romances Jane, causing the southern belle to confess her love for the wounded man, much to Jackson's horror. Barry recuperates at the Scott home, but is ordered to leave upon his recovery when he refuses to support Colbert's anti-American political views. Sam later recognizes Jackson's spur as the one he had photographed, and he and Barry are captured by the outlaw gang and taken to their hideout. The egomaniacal Jackson then forces Barry to write articles about his "patriotic" work, in which Jackson proclaims to be the next Sam Houston. Barry tries to convince Robert that Jackson is little more than an opportunistic outlaw, and the lad finally learns the truth when he overhears Jackson confessing his true intentions to the reporters. After Robert helps the newspapermen escape, however, he is killed by Jackson. Back in Huntsville, Barry and Sam try to tell Colbert the truth about Jackson, only to have the outlaw arrive with the murdered Robert, claiming that he was killed by "the Yanks." It is Jackson, however, who is arrested by Lamphere for Robert's murder. After Jackson is convicted of the crime, Barry asks him to confess all, so that the innocent citizens of Huntsville will not be injured protecting a false patriot. Jane pleads with her father to do likewise, so Colbert seeks guidance at the grave of his old friend, Sam Houston. As Jackson's execution is about to begin, the angry townspeople gather, until Colbert arrives in his old Confederate uniform and calls upon the mob to disperse and accept being Americans as well as Texans. The cocksure Jackson is then surprised to see the townspeople turn against him, and is told by the ghost of Sam Houston that he is about to get what he truly deserves.
J. Frank Hamilton
Sherman E. Sanders
Bernard B. Brown
Daniel Decatur Emmett
R. A. Gausman
Richard H. Riedel
I. S. Webb
Robert Stack, 1919-2003
Stack was born in Los Angeles on January 13, 1919 to a well-to-do family but his parents divorced when he was a year old. At age three, he moved with his mother to Paris, where she studied singing. They returned to Los Angeles when he was seven, by then French was his native language and was not taught English until he started schooling.
Naturally athletic, Stack was still in high school when he became a national skeet-shooting champion and top-flight polo player. He soon was giving lessons on shooting to such top Hollywood luminaries as Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, and found himself on the polo field with some notable movie moguls like Darryl Zanuck and Walter Wanger.
Stack enrolled in the University of Southern California, where he took some drama courses, and was on the Polo team, but it wasn't long before some influential people in the film industry took notice of his classic good looks, and lithe physique. Soon, his Hollywood connections got him on a film set at Paramount, a screen test, and eventually, his first lead in a picture, opposite Deanna Durbin in First Love (1939). Although he was only 20, Stack's natural delivery and boyish charm made him a natural for the screen.
His range grew with some meatier parts in the next few years, especially noteworthy were his roles as the young Nazi sympathizer in Frank Borzage's chilling The Mortal Storm (1940), with James Stewart, and as the Polish flier who woos a married Carole Lombard in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942).
After serving as a gunnery officer in the Navy during World War II, Stack returned to the screen, and found a few interesting roles over the next ten years: giving Elizabeth Taylor her first screen kiss in Robert Thorp's A Date With Judy (1948); the leading role as an American bullfighter in Budd Boetticher's The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951); and as a pilot in William Wellman's The High and the Mighty (1954), starring John Wayne. However, Stack saved his best dramatic performances for Douglas Sirk in two knockout films: as a self-destructive alcoholic in Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind (1956), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for supporting actor; and sympathetically portraying a fallen World War I pilot ace who is forced to do barnstorming stunts for mere survival in Tarnished Angels (1958).
Despite proving his capabilities as a solid actor in these roles, front rank stardom oddly eluded Stack at this point. That all changed when Stack gave television a try. The result was the enormously popular series, The Untouchables (1959-63). This exciting crime show about the real-life Prohibition-era crime-fighter Eliot Ness and his G-men taking on the Chicago underworld was successful in its day for several reasons: its catchy theme music, florid violence (which caused quite a sensation in its day), taut narration by Walter Winchell, and of course, Stack's trademark staccato delivery and strong presence. It all proved so popular that the series ran for four years, earned an Emmy for Stack in 1960, and made him a household name.
Stack would return to television in the late '60s, with the The Name of the Game (1968-71), and a string of made-for-television movies throughout the '70s. His career perked up again when Steven Spielberg cast him in his big budget comedy 1941 (1979) as General Joe Stillwell. The film surprised many viewers as few realized Stack was willing to spoof his granite-faced stoicism, but it won him over many new fans, and his dead-pan intensity would be used to perfect comic effect the following year as Captain Rex Kramer (who can forget the sight of him beating up Hare Krishnas at the airport?) in David and Jerry Zucker's wonderful spoof of disaster flicks, Airplane! (1980).
Stack's activity would be sporadic throughout the remainder of his career, but he returned to television, as the host of enormously popular Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2002), and played himself in Lawrence Kasden's comedy-drama Mumford (1999). He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Rosemarie Bowe Stack, a former actress, and two children, Elizabeth and Charles, both of Los Angeles.
by Michael T. Toole
Robert Stack, 1919-2003
The working titles of this film were Deep in the Heart of Texas and Bad Men of Texas. While the film's credits list the character played by Jane Darwell as "Mrs. Scott," she is called "Aunt Hattie Florence" in the film, and allusions are made to the fact that she is the spinster sister-in-law of Colonel Colbert Scott. In an April 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, Universal referred to the film as a "Super-Western," in an attempt to differentiate it from the typical "B film" westerns made by the studio. Producer George Waggner and actors Robert Stack, Broderick Crawford and Andy Devine had previously worked together on the 1941 Universal western Badlands of Dakota (see entry above).