KIT CARSON. United Artists, 1940. Jon Hall (Kit Carson), Lynn Bari, Dana Andrews (Captain John C. Fremont), Harold Huber, Ward Bond, Renie Riano, Clayton Moore, C. Henry Gordon. Screenplay: George Bruce. Director: George B. Seitz.

   First of all, let me reassure you that I did not take a single word or scene from this movie as a meaningful reflection of anything that ever happened in the real world. I won’t go into it further, but I really doubt that Kit Carson used the help of a troop of the US Cavalry, lead by John C. Fremont, to guide a wagon train of settlers headed for California. And all the time vying for the hand of of beautiful Dolores Murphy (Lynn Bari), daughter of the owner of a large hacienda already in place there.

   They run into all of the usual problems on the journey, of course, challenges mostly caused by Indians, Shoshones in particular, all riled up and supplied with rifles by General Castro (C. Henry Gordon), the governor of California with designs of becoming the dictator of the entire territory as well as Mexico, and American are most decidedly not welcome.

   But included in this movie is one of the best filmed circle-the-wagons scenes I’ve watched in a while, while at the same time the soldiers are trapped in a dead-end canyon with Indians shooting at them from atop the cliffs on either side. Life was tough back then.

   Miss Murphy is also first aghast at the sight of Carson and his fur-trapping buddies torturing a Mexican who has been spying on them, then repulsed by Fremont (following the rule book) summarily calling up a firing squad and executing the prisoner right in front of her.

   Which one of the two will she choose after this incident? I’ll give you a hint: What’s the title of the movie?

   Even though his ways are uncouth and he is barely literate, and he seems determined to do what’s best for her and not himself, her heart belongs to Kit. What struck me right away was how much Jon Hall’s performance seemed to channel Randolph Scott, down to the latter’s soft southern drawl. I didn’t learn until later that the role was actually intended for Scott, before things didn’t work out.

   This is a strange movie in another way, besides being a biopic with not much emphasis on the “bio.” It’s a large scale production, running nearly ninety minutes long, but (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) the people in it are far from being A level stars, even in 1940.