Dodge City (1939)

Source: Warner Bros.: DVD, 2005.

Year: 1939

Director: Michael Curtiz

Action Stars

Bruce Cabot

Errol Flynn

Douglas Fowley

Alan Hale

Victor Jory

Guinn Williams

Genre: Western

Country: United States

Story Duration: 01:42:10

Act Duration:

1st Act: 00:29:29

2nd Act: 00:30:02

3rd Act: 00:19:24

4th Act: 00:23:12

Plot Turns:

1st: Lee Irving trampled

2nd: Harry Cole trampled

3rd: Wade Hatton threatens to charge Jeff Surrett

ASD Ratio: 50%

AAD Ratios:

1st Act: 66%

2nd Act: 52%

3rd Act: 25%

4th Act: 48%

Action Structure: 3421

Action Scenarios






Race (Speed Variant)



Stampede (Speed Variant)


Total Action Moments: 38

1. Post Civil War rivalry: Confederate veterans belting out “Dixie”.
2. Post Civil War rivalry: Union veterans singing “Marching Through Georgia”.
3. Weaponization of chair.
4. Weaponization of saloon table.
Action Structure

Notable Action Sequence: Saloon Brawl

Duration: 00:08:35

Act: 2nd

Action Scenarios:





One of the most interesting features of action scenarios is their ability to adapt to the genres in which they are situated. This is specifically the case with the western and how it refashions the speed, fight and transfer scenarios. All such genre specific variations can be found in Dodge City (1939), including the saloon brawl, a staple of the western genre. The saloon brawl is notable not only as a variant of the fight scenario but also for instantiating the thematic opposition of the civilized East and the uncivilized West that runs through the history of the genre. The saloon brawl is conventionally depicted in the western as an alcohol fueled fight that is accompanied with a destruction of property stemming from the mayhem. This uncivil behavior if presented realistically could be too dark in tone for family entertainment so as a result such scenes are often played for laughs.

The saloon brawl in Dodge City assumes this comedic tone and is motivated by the continuing rivalry between Union and Confederate veterans. Ruby Gilman and her chorus girls back up singers perform “Marching Through Georgia” that causes Union vets at the saloon to join in the song. Irked by the political sentiments attached to the tune, Tex Baird grabs an accordion player and orders him to start playing “Dixie”. Soon both groups compete to out-sing each other as the film cross-cuts between the Confederate and Union veterans [Figure 1 and 2]. Tex then spots a photograph of 5th Kansas Infantry Regiment placed above the bar and hurls a bottle at it causing pandemonium to break out and the fight to spread quickly throughout the saloon. Objects at hand become weaponized as both parties use bottles, chairs and tables as projectiles and clubs to attack each other [Figure 3 and 4]. In the process, the saloon is gradually demolished as windows are smashed, a stairway collapses and decorative fixtures are pulled from the walls. Celebrating their unruliness, the Confederate veterans depart from the saloon but unwittingly leave behind Rusty, one of their comrades. Jeff Surrett, the antagonist of the film and owner of the saloon, seeks retribution. He orders his men to drag Rusty to the plaza with the intent of hanging him, resulting in a darker change of tone to the sequence. Wade Hatton, the film’s protagonist, rescues Rusty from the lynching, underscoring how the absence of the law is another feature of the uncivilized West.

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