Santa Fe Trail is a 1940 western film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Despite glaring historical inaccuracies and racist overtones, the film was one of the top-grossing films of the year, being the seventh Flynn-de Havilland collaboration. The film also has nothing to do with its namesake, the famed Santa Fe Trail except that the trail started in Missouri. Instead, it follows the life of Jeb Stuart, a cavalry commander (and future Confederate Army general).
The film entered the public domain in 1968, after United Artists failed to renew copyright.
The film purports to follow the life of J.E.B. Stuart (Errol Flynn) before the outbreak of the American Civil War. Among its sub-plots are a romance with the fictional Kit Carson Holliday (Olivia de Havilland), friendship with George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), and battles against abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey). Among the many glaring inaccuracies has Stuart leading a cavalry charge against John Brown's "fort" in Harpers Ferry. In fact Stuart was at Harper's Ferry-but John Brown was captured in an infantry assault by US Marines under command of US Army Colonel Robert Edward Lee. Another inaccuracy is the film has Stuart, Custer, John Bell Hood, George Pickett, James Longstreet, and Philip Sheridan all having been part of the West Point graduating class of 1854. In fact, Longstreet was of the class of 1842, Pickett was of the class of 1846, Sheridan and Hood were of the class of 1853, Stuart 1854, and Custer not until 1861-a year early because of the onset of the Civil War.
In addition, Stuart and Custer are shown to be the best of friends when in fact they did not know each other. Shortly after graduation, Stuart transferred to the newly formed 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment at Fort Leavenworth (not the 2nd Cavalry as the movie states) and was involved in Kansas during the fighting there. After his graduation from West Point in 1861, Custer joined ...