The Alamo, Vintage Movie Poster

John Wayne takes the Alamo to France

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by Kathryn Siefker, Associate Curator of Exhibition Content

The small group of revolutionary soldiers who fought the Mexican Army at the Alamo have inspired numerous films, but none are more famous than John Wayne's 1960 film The Alamo. The highly anticipated movie was released internationally and starred Wayne as Davy Crockett, Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie, and Laurence Harvey as William Travis.

Since the late 1940s, John Wayne wanted to make a movie about the Alamo to inspire Americans to preserve liberty at any cost, and he spared no cost in making The Alamo, which totaled $12 million in production, the largest film budget to date in 1960. A portion of this budget went to hire a team of historical advisors, and the film was touted by its producers as having "the most thorough and exhaustive effort of research that ever went into a motion picture." Even so, The Alamo is filled with historical inaccuracy. One of the film's most glaring inaccuracies places the famed Alamo mission on the banks of the Rio Grande, a river almost 200 miles from the actual Alamo in San Antonio. While the mission is near the San Antonio River, it is not exactly riverfront property. Also of note is a key moment in the film that places the fateful battle during daytime. In reality, the final battle was a pre-dawn surprise attack — a hallmark of Santa Anna's military style.

Despite these inaccuracies, The Alamo remains a classic and beloved film. At its core, it is a film about democracy. When Travis informs his fellow Texian soldiers that reinforcements are not coming, that it will be impossible to defend the Alamo successfully, and that staying to fight means certain death, the men still remain and fight on their own volition, without orders from a commanding officer. They exercise their democratic right to make a personal decision to die for a cause they believe in: Texas independence from Mexico.

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The Alamo, Vintage Movie Poster Artifact from San Antonio
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