Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Alamo (1960)

Go To

The Alamo is a 1960 historical Epic Western film. It was the first directorial effort of John Wayne, who also stars as Davy Crockett; the supporting cast includes Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie, Laurence Harvey as William B. Travis, and Richard Boone as General Sam Houston.

In the film, Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and the Texas militia try to defend the Alamo from General Santa Anna. Not to be confused with the 2004 version starring Billy Bob Thornton.

This film contains examples of:

  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Emil tries to force Flaca into marriage with him so he can legally own her land. Thankfully he's killed before he can force her to go through with it.
  • Artistic License – History: The film contains numerous historical inaccuracies. It depicts all the Alamo defenders as white men, while in real life a number of them were Hispanic.note  It shows the Mexican army assaulting the Alamo on two separate days before it falls, while it only took one day to take the Alamo in real life. The real life final battle for the Alamo took place at 5 in the morning when it was still dark out, but the movie shows the assault happening in broad daylight. Jim Bowie is depicted as taking an active role in the Alamo's defense, while in real life he was so ill he could barely stand by the time the battle started. The film states Fannin and his troops failed to reinforce the Alamo because they were ambushed and murdered; in real life, the attack and mass murder of Fannin's troops didn't happen until after the Alamo battle, and they were simply unavailable.
    • The portrayal of Travis as a Cultured Warrior doesn't really line up with history. He was really a ne'er do well country lawyer who used Texas as an escape from his mounting debts for which he was about to be arrested.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Crockett and Bowie first team-up to fight off a bunch of hired thugs sent by Emil Sande, a corrupt and greedy San Antonio businessman.
    Crockett: Well thanks, friend! [gestures to the two men Bowie has firmly in a head-lock] If you don't insist on having those two to yourself I'll give you a hand?
    Bowie: My pleasure, friend.
    [Crockett renders both men out cold with Bowie's knife]
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes with a view of the Mission, and the guard at his post.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: After Crockett's encounter with Emil Sande, he's accosted by some of Sande's men. Bowie decided to help Crockett and he and Crockett become acquainted during the fight.
  • Cultured Warrior: Colonel William Travis is a flawlessly dressed lawyer who uses impeccably proper English but impresses Davy Crockett and his men. For example he shoots a charging cavalry soldier with a single-shot dueling pistol as the soldier charges him.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • William Travis fights and kills several of the Mexicans with his sabre, before he gets shot. He then breaks his sword over his knee, throws the remains at the man who shot him, and collapses.
    • Jim Bowie only leaves the battle under Davy Crockett's orders after being wounded, where he eventually kills a few Mexicans who storm the room he's in before being bayoneted to death.
    • Davy Crockett, after being lanced in the chest, takes a torch and throws himself into the Alamo's ammo magazine, detonating it.
  • Famed In-Story: Both Crockett and Bowie were already legends by the time they get to the Alamo to defend it.
  • Gallows Humor: The defenders are realistic about their odds of survival.
  • Genius Bruiser: Crockett shows himself to be a shrewd tactician and leader in addition to being a badass on the front-lines. He also displays a great deal of wit guile when dealing with his own men.
  • Good Shepherd: The Parson, one of Crockett's Tennessee volunteers.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: During the final battle, Jethro throws himself in front of Bowie to shield him from some bayonets. It's for naught as Bowie is quickly killed seconds later anyway.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Jim Bowie was no doubt the worst patient among the fort's defenders. Often yelling loudly at those who tried to get him out of harm's way whenever he became injured.
  • Living Legend:
    • Davy Crockett was a well-known frontiersman, sharpshooter, and Congressman.
    • Jim Bowie had survived an infamous brawl known as the Sandbar Fight where he took on three other men with only his knife to defend himself. Bowie's knife was as legendary as he was.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: An unintentional real-life example of this occurred in the scene where Colonel Travis shows his rejection of a Mexican surrender demand by firing a cannon. The actor playing Travis, Laurence Harvey, was standing too close to the cannon when he fired it, so that when it went off, it rolled backwards over Harvey's foot, breaking it in the process. Despite suffering a broken foot, Harvey showed no reaction and was able to maintain his composure enough to complete the scene.
  • Nice Mean And In Between:
    • The Spock: Travis, the intellectual and well-educated leader trying to do what's right.
    • The McCoy: Bowie, the irrepressible, hotheaded, complete opposite of Travis.
    • The Kirk: Crockett, well-liked by both men, and acts as a mediator between the two.
  • Noble Demon: Santa Anna is heavily implied to be this, making it a point to allow all civilians to leave before the attack — and then ordering his men to salute the widowed Mrs. Dickinson in the end.
  • One Sided Battle: Only a few hundred men defend the Alamo versus over a thousand Mexicans. The defenders hold out well, until they're overwhelmed in final battle during the climax.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Smitty tries to convince everyone (including a cute little lady that's very concerned for him) that the wound he has is nothing serious. Then Beekeeper goes and pours whiskey on it!
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Dimitri Tiomkin recycles some of his own music (not counting "Deguello") from Rio Bravo.
  • Running Gag:
    • The two Tennessee men.
      Tennessean #1: Do [...] mean what I think it do?
      Tennessean #2: It do.
    • The sentry Bob's penitent for saying "Halt, who goes there?" to Jim Bowie, who didn't approve.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Davy Crockett had a BIG reputation.
  • Taking You with Me: All three leading men make an effort to take as many of the enemy with them as they can.
  • Those Two Guys: The two Tennesseans who contribute the Running Gag mentioned above. They even die together.
  • Undying Loyalty: Bowie makes his slave, Jethro, a free man and tells him to leave before the final attack. Jethro surmises that his new freedom gives him the chance to choose what to do next, and decides to stay and fight. He dies shielding an injured Bowie from the Mexicans.
  • Worthy Opponent: Surprisingly, the Mexican army gets this treatment. One scene has two of Crockett's Tennesseans admitting they admire the courage of the Mexicans assaulting the Alamo, praising them as "fighting men." (This reaches a high point when the boys take note of the Mexican's dignified treatment of their dead.) The Mexicans saluting Mrs. Dickinson and other survivors at the end suggests the feeling is mutual. Even Santa Anna is portrayed as something of a Noble Demon, honorably allowing all civilians enough time to leave the area safely before the attack begins.
  • Zerg Rush: Santa Anna's entire strategy in the final assault. It works, but there are multiple wide shots that show how heavy a price the Mexicans paid just getting in.