Dakota (1945)

Dakota (1945)Dakota is a western gambling film released in 1945 by Republic Pictures. The film stars John Wayne as John Devlin, a gambler who elopes with the daughter of a railroad tycoon. The film centers around the story of Devlin helping wheat farmers protect their land from the railway.

The film used several taglines during its promotional period, including "Mighty adventure… romance… excitement… of America’s Last Frontier," "Here’s raw adventure and dramatic romance! It’s an exciting screen thrill!" and "The year’s top action romance!"

Cast and Crew of Dakota

Dakota was directed and produced by Joseph Kane. The original screenplay for the film was written by Howard Estabrook. Jack A. Marta handled cinematography. The film was edited by Fred Allen. Walter Scharf provided the musical score.

Dakota featured many stars of the era, including John Wayne as John Devlin, Vera Ralston as Sandy Poli, Walter Brennan as Captain Bounce of the Riverbird, and Ward Bond as Jim Bender. The supporting cast included Mike Marzurki, Ona Munson, Hugo Haas, Nick Stewart, Paul Fix, Grant Withers, Robert Livingston, Olin Howland, Pierre Watkin, and Robert Barrat.

Plot Synopsis for Dakota

Dakota begins in 1870, when Marko Poli, a Chicago railroad kingpin, is infuriated to find that his daughter Sandy has secretly married John Devlin, a gambler. Marko attempts to stop John when Sandy is at home packing following the marriage. Sandy has sold one of her father’s paintings for $20,000. She uses the money to escape with John, though the two debate their destination. John would prefer to head for California, but Sandy would rather move to the Dakota territory, where they could buy land in Fargo and resell it to her father. Ultimately, Sandy wins out, and they head for the Dakota territory.

During their journey, the couple meet with Jim Bender, a saloon owner in Fargo. Jim is aware of the imminent railway expansion, and tries to get Jim and Sandy to sell their land to him and Bigtree Collins, his henchman. Before arriving in Fargo, the group makes a stop in Fort Abercrombie. There, they find Anson Stowe, a settler who is complaining about the poor treatment directed towards farmers in Fargo. Jim leaves on a boat for Fargo, while Collins, Stowe, John, and Sandy take a boat lead by Captain Bounce and a servant named Nicodemus.

While on the boat, someone shoots Stowe, and two men named Slagin and Carp attack John and Sandy. Sandy’s money is robbed. It turns out that the two robbers were employed by Bender, a conclusion that is confirmed when they arrive in Fargo. Jim Bender demands that John and Sandy leave the town at once, in order to remove competition for land rights. A fight breaks out between Collins and John, and Bender accidentally shoots Sandy. At this point, John is infuriated by his Sandy’s injury, and he becomes determined to take their money back from Bender.

The following day, the farmers arrange a meeting to talk about their growing need for money and the poor condition of their crops. Collins informs the farmers that the money has been borrowed from Bender. The deal also means that the farmers will have to forfeit all of their land to Bender in the case that the crops don’t develop, but the farmers sing the contracts anyways. John manages to escape from Bender’s thugs in order to attend the meeting.

At the meeting, John informs Bender that Poli plans to survey the land again and move the railroad, as opposed to buying additional land contracts. Bender is convinced to trade the newly signed contracts for $20,000, in addition to $8,000 that will be delivered later. John knows that Bender will try to burn the crops in order to breach the contracts, and meets with Sandy to attempt a quick getaway on Bounce’s boat.

On the dock, Sandy meets with Wexton Geary, the man planning to buy land from Poli. Angered, Bender surmises that John has tricked him, and sends his henchman to get the documents back. Slagin and Carp retrieve the documents, killing a farmer and his wife in the process. John organizes the farmers to rise up against Bender and his gang, and a shootout ensues in the burning wheat fields. Collins shoots and kills Bender, and is then beaten down by John in a brawl.

As John and Sandy prepare to leave for California, Sandy has a change of heart. She purchases a new boat for Bounce, and decides to stay in Fargo to assist the farmers.

Additional Information about Dakota

Dakota features a quote that will be interesting to poker players: "$20,000, you couldn’t win that in a poker game!" "Not unless I was dealing."

Dakota received mediocre reviews upon its release, many of which cited a poor acting performance from Vera Ralston. Interestingly, Ralston was married to Herb Yates, the head of Republic Studios, at the time of Dakota’s production. Many critics argue that Ralston was only cast in the picture because of her marriage to Yates. Reviews do mention, however, that the film is worth seeing for John Wayne fans. Ward Bond, Mike Mazurki, and Walter Brennan also turn in solid performances. The gambling scenes will appeal to card players.

Dakota was released on December 25, 1945, and has a running length of 82 minutes. The film currently has a rating of 5.8 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database.