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The Command (1954)

Approved | | Romance, Western | 13 February 1954 (USA)
An army doctor, with no combat experience, is forced to take command of a cavalry troop escorting a wagon train through hostile Indian country when the unit's commanding officer dies.


David Butler


Russell S. Hughes (screen play by) (as Russell Hughes), Samuel Fuller (adaptation) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview:
Guy Madison ... Capt. Robert MacClaw
Joan Weldon ... Martha Cutting
James Whitmore ... Sgt. Elliott
Carl Benton Reid ... Col. Janeway
Harvey Lembeck ... Pvt. Gottschalk
Ray Teal ... Dr. Trent
Robert Nichols Robert Nichols ... 2nd Lt. O'Hirons (as Bob Nichols)
Don Shelton Don Shelton ... Maj. Gibbs


Just before dying from wounds received in a skirmish with Indians Capt. Forsythe orders his cavalry troop's doctor, Capt. Robert MacClaw, to take command. His men don't like it and think that Sgt. Elliott should have been put in temporary command until they reach the Fort. MacClaw admits he knows little of battle tactics but takes charge only with the promise that he will do the best he can. If anything, the men are embarrassed at having such an inexperienced man leading them and MacClaw agrees not to let on that he's a doctor. When they arrive at a staging post they are ordered by the Colonel in command of a group of infantry to escort a wagon train of settlers moving west. There may be smallpox among them however and MacClaw is caught between his promise to his men and the demands of Martha Cutting who is trying to deal with the epidemic. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Story Beyond Any Bigness the Screen Has Shown - The First Production from Warner Bros. in CinemaScope See more »


Romance | Western


Approved | See all certifications »





English | Italian

Release Date:

13 February 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rear Guard See more »

Filming Locations:

Agoura, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (WarnerPhonic/RCA) (magnetic prints)| Mono (optical prints)


Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Began shooting late July 1953. See more »


In 1876 the single-shot Springfield Model 45-70 1873 rifle was the standard US Army infantry rifle, as identified by Captain MacClaw when he picks up an abandoned one. The cavalry used a single-shot carbine version of the Springfield 1873. Yet the final battle sequences show both the infantry and the cavalry troopers exclusively using Winchester or Henry style lever action repeating rifles, even though these weapons were never Army issue. See more »


Col. Janeway: Mr. O'Hirons! Mr. O'Hirons! Regulations stipulate $10 a month additional for command functions. When we reach the Paradise, notify the paymaster that Captain MacClaw has commanded with distinction. The government owes him $3.30.
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Referenced in Lucky Me (1954) See more »

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User Reviews

Solid Western; Strong Situations; Has Fine Production Values
9 July 2005 | by silverscreen888See all my reviews

This is a very good story that was made into a very compelling western by director David Butler from James Warner Bellah's novel "rear guard". Samule Fuller and Russell S. Hughes get credit for the tau and only occasionally glossy screenplay. Star Guy Madion made several estimable and well-remembered westerns in the 1950s, in which decade he also starred in the "Wild Bill Hickick" TV series along with Andy Devine. The intriguing part of this standard story-line which concerns a ranking officer having to assume leadership of a cavalry outfit after the death of its senior officer is that this man happens to be a medical Captain, not a field commander. They fall in with a wagon train during Indian troubles, and end up meeting infantry as well, whom his second, powerfully played by James Whitmore, refers to as "stinkin' beetle crushers". Madson assumes command of both groups, romances lovely and talented Joan Weldon, and nurses the wagon train through sickness and danger; then, at the last, he gets the inspiration to mount cannon onto the wagons, form a hollow square, and draw the Indians into an ambush. Thus, he uses his imagination to defeat the Indian's long-delayed final attack. Madison gets Weldon, Whitmore's honor as a cavalrymen is served, and all ends well; but there are good dialogue confrontations and strong situations along the way, plenty of battle action and unusually strong character revelations. Music was supplied for this film by veteran Dimitri Tiomkin, costumes by Moss Mabry. The fine cinematography was the work of Wilfrid M. Cline. In the professional cast along with Madison, Whitmore and Weldon were Carl Benton Reid, Harvey Lembeck, Ray Teal, Robert Nichols, Gregg Barton, Renata Vanni, Zacharias Yaconelli, Jim Bannon and others. This is a quality production and a very strong story line which has to do with being true to values as its general themes. It is exceptionally well- carried-out, I suggest and thoughtful, not just for a western but for any genre of film.


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