Texas is the epic tale of the formation of the state of Texas. The film's story is derived from the novel of the same name written by James A. Michener. This historic fiction interweaves the personal stories of key players along with historical facts to underscore the tremendous struggle, both personally and militarily, that resulted in a Mexican territory becoming part of the United States. In the year 1821, the territory that we now know of as Texas, was owned by Mexico, but rapidly being settled by people from the American frontier. It was a vast multifaceted wilderness of plains, plateaus, cathedralesque peaks and canyons of the Rocky's, rolling savannas, jagged brush county replete with cactus, and rolling hills and valleys that spilled into a rich carpet of deep grass. The Spanish had fought the Indians for this land and now it was a world dominated by Spain. The language was Spanish, the law was Spanish, the customs and the Catholic churches were Spanish. However, the Mexican government had invited colonization of its northern frontier and the "Anglos" flocked there to seek their fortunes. Stephen F. Austin arrives in Texas and forms what became known as Austin Colony. His father had secured a royal commission to settle three hundred American families in Texas and Stephen sought to complete what his father had started. He wanted to bring some order to the colonization and some respect for the laws of Mexico. Stephen, a man of honor, finds himself caught between the desire of the American families to live by American law and the Mexican government who was the official authority. He must also deal with the opportunistic Anglos, American men who, under Mexican law, took Mexican brides to secure larger tracts of land and a work force, placing them outside the jurisdiction of Austin Colony. Amidst these tensions, the Indians attacked the settlers to steal their horses. It was a land where cultures were in conflict from the beginning. Arriving to settle in the Austin Colony, is Mattie Quimper and her stepson, Yancy. Although Mattie was widowed on her journey west, she is determined to make her claim and stay in Texas. Yancy, an angry young man, hates the work and struggle of being a settler, and wants only to go home. Mattie not only falls in love with Texas, but also with Stephen Austin. She establishes her homestead by the river and starts a rafting service. Stephen, being so preoccupied with his service to the colony, acknowledges her love, but cannot find the time to have a relationship. Mattie is an independent woman and speaks up on Stephen's behalf when other settlers try to pressure him into defying the Mexican government. Befriending Mattie is a Mexican named Benito Garza, whose family has deep roots in Texas. Benito is a young caballero who brings wild horses up from south Texas, breaks them and sells them. He is attracted to Mattie's strength and beauty and asks her to marry him. She is reluctant to offend Benito, but since she is in love with Stephen she must honor those feelings. Eventually, Mattie does fall in love with Benito who is an attentive and persistent suitor, whereas Stephen is married to his duty. Although Texas did attract the greedy and opportunistic, it also attracted hard working honorable men who sought to better their futures. Two such men were Zave Campbell and Oliver MacNab. Zave arrives in Texas and writes his friend Oliver of the wonderful future that is possible there. Oliver and his son, Otto, travel to Texas and together with Zave, begin a new life. Otto is everything that Yancy Quimper is not and enthusiastically takes to Texas and the adventure of it. Benito teaches Otto to rope and break mustangs and becomes a mentor to the boy. It is not long before Benito introduces Campbell and MacNab to his two sisters and they marry in a joint ceremony. These unions make Zave and Oliver landed gentry by Mexican law, but there is true love between the men and their new wives and a bond that is forged between the Anglo and Hispanic cultures. Otto is thrilled that Benito is now his uncle. In these early scenes of the film there are many horses seen in the background and pulling carriages, wagons and plows. As Mattie is taking claim to her land in a community ceremony, Indians ride in and steal the settlers' horses. The settlers fire at the Indians and one dies, but Mattie remains undaunted. For this scene, skilled Native American riders were used. Also for the protection of the horses' ears, quarter loads were used for the gunfire. Later we see Benito corral some of the horses he has rounded up. While he is teaching Otto how to break a mustang, the courageous boy breaks out of the corral and runs the horse across the river. Benito loves the spirit of the boy and gives him the horse. For these scenes, local ranch horses were used to run into the corral as wild mustangs. For the scene where the boy is breaking the horse, a trained bucking horse was used and a wrangler doubled for the actor. Not all the settlers are willing to assimilate to the laws and customs of Mexico and are ripe for a fight for freedom and independence. One such instigator is William Barrett Travis who arrives from the states and challenges Austin's authority. He finds support in men such as the famous Jim Bowie. Bowie is lured by the adventure of Texas and even convinces Sam Houston, a hero of the American Civil War, to join him. By this point in his career, Sam Houston is nearly a broken man who believes he has nothing to lose by venturing to the burgeoning territory. As Sam Houston crosses the river into Texas, he looks up to see an eagle soaring, just as we know his future was to soar as a leader in the fight for freedom. The camera shot of the eagle was stock footage purchased for the film. As the conflict begins to heighten, we watch as the young boys, Otto and Yancy, grow up becoming as diverse as the politics. Otto has become a brave and honorable Texican, while Yancy is still a coward and a whiner who is bitter about his stepmother, Mattie, falling in love with, Benito, a Mexican. In one scene, Yancy confides in Otto that he hates Texas and the frontier life and cannot even bring himself to kill a chicken for supper. Otto reaches into the coup and kills the chicken for Yancy. This scene was shot in cuts. We first see Otto reach into the coup to take out a chicken. We then watch the disgusted reaction of Yancy while we hear the sound of Otto killing the bird. We never see the bird being killed, nor do we actually see the actor holding a live chicken. It was not just the Americans who were discontent with the state of affairs in Texas. General Santa Anna wanted nothing more than to keep the Mexican territory out of the hands of the Norte Americanos, just as he had kept it out of the hands of the Spaniards. When Sam Houston gets elected as a delegate to the convention in Texas, he and Stephen Austin find themselves on opposing sides. Austin believes that Houston is intent on war. Houston claims that he wants a constitution, not war. Santa Anna throws Austin in prison as an insurgent and he remains there until Santa Anna finally declares a general amnesty. However, after his release, Austin, a very sick man, goes to Houston and admits to him that he now believes that war is the only recourse. Benito chooses to fight beside Santa Anna and tries desperately to get Mattie to marry him before the war begins. He knows that the Mexican army will show no mercy for Americans who are not wed to Mexicans. But Mattie cannot run away with him and hide in the shelter of his family. Knowing that Stephen is a very sick man, Mattie goes to nurse him. Austin barely recoups and issues a call to arms for all Texicans. The Texicans win the first battle outside San Antonio and Austin urges Sam Houston to take command. Houston, in turn, encourages Austin to travel to Washington to make a plea for arms and volunteers. War has begun and even those who are reluctant to take sides find they have no choice. Even Campbell and MacNab, although they love their wives, find they must support the Americans. Santa Anna marches into San Antonio and Benito arrives ahead of him to establish the red Mexican flag. This flag means that they will take no survivors and the Texicans take refuge in the Alamo. Santa Anna plans to attack with the full force of over 4,000 men and the Texicans are forced to fight without the help of reinforcements from the states. Santa Anna's cavalry arrives bringing the estimated army to between 4,500 and 6,000 men. For this scene, there were many horses utilized as cavalry and also pulling supply and ammunition wagons. Wranglers were present throughout the shooting of these scenes and the riding was very mild. Under cover of night, more Texicans arrive and ride into the fort, among them Campbell and MacNab. At dawn, the charge begins on foot and on horseback amidst much gunfire. Men on horseback ride carrying ladders to storm the Alamo. There are horse falls as men are shot in the battle and scenes where horses jump over the bodies and debris resulting from the explosion that blows open the Alamo's gate. After the bloody battle is over, it is the Mexicans who are victorious. As Benito surveys the carnage, he finds his brothers-in-law are among the casualties. Santa Anna refuses to let him bury them, even though they are his sister's husbands. Also killed in this fight were legends such as Jim Bowie, Davie Crockett and William Travis. Much of the battle footage utilizing horse action was stock footage, especially the scenes where riders are carrying ladders and the horses are jumping though the Alamo gate. In all instances where horse falls occured, trained falling horses and stunt men were used. Sam Houston is at a convention working to form a constitution when a horseman, riding hard and coming to a sliding stop, arrives at the meeting to report the fall of the Alamo. The slide was not intended, however because they used an expert rider to do the scene who was able to control the horse, they kept this in the film. Santa Anna, believing he has won, splits his forces and Houston seizes the opportunity to take the general by surprise. Houston realizes that to do this he must cut off Santa Anna from his forces. The logical move is to destroy Quimper's Ferry which belongs to Mattie. Benito also realizes that this may be Houston's plan and that Mattie may destroy the ferry herself in support of the Texicans. Benito rides off to stop Mattie and takes with him several men. Houston and Stephen Austin, now back in Texas, go to help Mattie destroy the ferry. We see the horses on the ferry as Benito arrives, with Stephen on board trying desperately to reach Mattie. The ferry reaches the shore and the horses are disembarked, but before Benito can stop the inevitable, his soldiers shoot Mattie. As the ferry burns in the background, Mattie dies in the arms of the two men who loved her. Benito, in a last act of mercy and love, sends Stephen away and buries Mattie himself. All of the war, hatred and grief change Benito forever. With the ferry destroyed, Houston decides to attack Santa Anna. At this point we see that both Yancy and Otto, having lost his father and his friend, Zave, at the Alamo, have joined the Texican army. Otto sees the futility and sadness of war, but Yancy has a bigoted enthusiasm that the Mexicans will be overcome by the Anglos. Houston takes Santa Anna by surprise and as an inspiration to his men, Houston gives the famous battle cry, "Remember the Alamo." The battle scenes are shot in slow motion and we see Sam Houston shot off his horse as the horse falls. Houston mounts another to continue fighting and is shot by Benito, who is wounded himself. Houston and this second horse fall into a pond, but we see him get up, mount Otto's horse, and fight even more fervently. Otto saves Benito's life by convincing the Texicans to take him as a prisoner. Santa Anna deserts his army and runs off. For the scenes where Sam Houston is shot off the two horses, trained falling horses were used and stunt men and the stunt coordinator directed the surrounding action. The stunt coordinator doubled for the actor on the horse which fell into the pond. However, it is Yancy and Otto who find Santa Anna in the woods. Yancy is actually running from the battle as a coward himself, but when Otto finds him and the unarmed Santa Anna, Yancy pretends to be hunting deserters. Otto knows better. Because of Otto's bravery and his honorable choice not to shoot an unarmed man, Santa Anna is delivered to Sam Houston. The defeated general surrenders and promises that the Mexican troops will leave Texas. Sam Houston wins the election as president of the New Republic of Texas and appoints Stephen Austin as his Secretary of State. But the problems of the territory are far from over. The war is over and Yancy Quimper is becoming a rich man on the false reputation of being the captor of Santa Anna. Otto finds that Yancy now owns Benito's magnificent stallion, Diablo, but cannot stand the thought of such a coward possessing this cherished animal. Otto trades all of his land for Benito's horse. We first see Otto discover Diablo as the horse rears up in defiance of his new captive situation. Otto calms the horse who seems to remember his old friend. Once the deal is made we see Otto riding off on Diablo. For this scene a trained rearing horse was used. Houston forms the Texas Rangers in an effort to bring law to the territory plagued by Mexican bandits and Indians who cannot accept the loss of their land. These bitter bandits raid settlements burning down the towns and killing the settlers. One of the most ruthless bandits is Benito Garza, a man transformed by war and loss. Otto, who joins the Rangers, wants to find Benito, but is torn between his duty and the memory of his old friend. On his way to find Benito, Otto splits off from the Rangers to visit his stepmother and his aunt, widowed by the war. He arrives to find that they have been slaughtered by Commanches. As Otto buries them, Benito arrives to mourn their deaths. The old friends know that tragedy has changed their lives and relationship and although Otto wants to give Diablo back to his old friend, Benito is beyond any gesture of friendship. They part knowing that the next time they meet, one will live and one will die. Otto does find Benito's hide-out just over the border and in the wee hours of the morning, goes to bring him into custody. They inevitably must shoot it out and Benito finally dies in Otto's arms. Otto rides out on Diablo with Benito's men in pursuit and when he reaches the river, the other Texas Rangers are there to back him up. Otto rides hard across the river amidst the shoot out. He is shot and falls from the horse, but lives to set the horse free. For this scene a stunt man doubled for the actor. We watch the magnificent Diablo run off into the territory whose freedom came at such a high price. In 1846, Texas, the maverick independent territory, became part of the United States and has since been known as the Lone Star State.
- Starring: Patrick Duffy and Stacy Keach
- Director(s): Richard Lang
- Producer(s): Spelling Entertainment, John Wilder, Nightwatch Productions
- Screenwriter(s): Sean Meredith
- Release Date: Thursday, September 29, 1994
Featured Animal Action
Animal action is continuous throughout the film and there were many horses used. Also appearing as background atmosphere were cows, chickens, dogs and a rooster. In the scenes where there were horse falls and saddle falls, trained falling horses were used along with stunt men as riders. Much of the battle scenes were stock footage. Wranglers and stunt personnel worked closely together to insure the safety of both the animals and the actors.