Wayne Tribute: Allegheney Uprising (1939)

Wayne Tribute: Honoring the Duke

This is one of the three pictures John Wayne made with Claire Trevor; the other two were “Stagecoach,” released in the same year, and “Dark Command,” in 1940. Trevor, a bigger name than Wayne at the time, received top billing. The producers hoped to recreate the magic and success of Ford’s “Stagecoach,” but they could not.

In this ponderous and rather dull saga, set in 1759, when America was a British colony, Wayne plays Jim Smith, a frontiersman who finds out that Trader Callendar (Brian Donlevy) is supplying Pennsylvania’s Indians with liquor and forearms. Claire Trevor is cast as Janie McDougle, a woman in love with Jim though knowing he’s not the romantic or marrying kind.

Indeed, Jim leaves Janie to chase a band of marauding Indians, and then travels to Philadelphia to report the illegal traffic of the traders. A force of British soldiers, under the command of Captain Swanson (George Sanders), garrisons Fort Loudon to protect the innocent settlers.

In a confrontation with the bureaucratic Swanson, Jim says, “You’ll never learn, you’ll never learn to know us,” thus expressing the American contempt for the Brits and the discontents that eventually lead to the 1776 Declaration of Independence. Whereas the pompous Swanson goes by the book and stands for the past, Jim is a practical man of action, guided by his instincts and common sense. When Swanson talks of observing the rules of civilized warfare, Jim’s reply is short and terse: “Tripe!” This element became prominent in Wayne’s future screen image, accounting for its durability and popularity.

Backed by the local magistrate, who understands the settlers’ fears, Jim defies the military and eventually even gains the support of Swanson’s superiors.

“If he had time for a girl, it’d be her” (Janie), someone says about Jim’s lack of time for romance and lack of interest in women. At the end, However, the tomboyish Janie will not take no as an answer, and she follows Jim. Asked where she’s going, Janie simply says: “With My Man!”

In the U.K., the film was released under the title of “The First Rebel,” which is the name of the factual story upon which the film is based.

Produced by Pandro Berman, “Allegheney Uprising” is more technically polished than John Wayne’s other films of the era, benefiting from the strong imagery from Nicholas Musuraca, who shot many great film noirs.


Janie McDougle (Claire Trevor)
Jim Smith (John Wayne)
Captain Swanson (George Sanders)
Trader Callendar (Brian Donlevy)
McDougle (Wilfrid Lawson)
M Common (Chill Wills)
Tom Calhoon (Moroni Olsen)


Running Time: 92 minutes
Release date: April 5, 1940

Produced by Pandro S. Berman and P. J. Wolfson
Directed by William Seiter.
Screenplay: P.J. Wolfson, based on the factual story, “The First Rebel,” by Neil Swanson.
Camera: Nicholas Musuraca.
Edited by George Crone.
Art Direction: Van Nest Poglase