When the Daltons Rode
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Marshall
Screenplay byHarold Shumate
Based onWhen the Daltons Rode
by Emmett Dalton and Jack Jungmeyer
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byEdward Curtiss
Music byFrank Skinner
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • July 25, 1940 (1940-07-25) (Coffeyville, Kansas)
  • August 23, 1940 (1940-08-23) (United States)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States

When the Daltons Rode is a 1940 American Western film directed by George Marshall and starring Randolph Scott, Kay Francis and Brian Donlevy. Based on the 1931 book of the same name by Emmett Dalton, a member of the Dalton Gang, and Jack Jungmeyer Sr., the film also includes a fictional family friend who tries to dissuade the Dalton brothers from becoming outlaws.


The film opens with the Old-Timer talking to Tod Jackson, setting the background of the story. Tod doesn't want a history lesson, he just wants to know where the Dalton's live.

The Dalton brothers, law-abiding farmers, move to Kansas from Missouri to begin a new life. Bob Dalton persuades Tod, a childhood friend and now a lawyer, to defend his kin Ben Dalton in a court case against a corrupt land-development company.

A melee erupts during the trial and the Daltons shoot their way out of the courtroom. Cronies of the land developers and the press portray the brothers as vicious criminals. Ben is shot in the back. Unable to live lawfully, the Daltons rob a stagecoach, and their reputation as dangerous outlaws spreads.

Tod and Bob Dalton's fiancée, Julie, fall in love.

Tod discovers that Caleb Winters is secretly behind the land company, amassing farmland he can sell for the railroad right-of-way, but when he tells Bob about it, Bob knocks him out. His mother and Julie confront Bob, and he realizes that he is no longer the man he was.

The gang was supposed to go their separate ways, but they defy Bob to pull one more bank job. He joins them in the resulting shootout. Winters takes rifle shots at the gang from his 2nd floor office, killing Ozark among others. When silence falls, Tod steps out onto the sidewalk and Winters aims at him. With his dying breath, Bob reloads his rifle and kills Winters.

Dissolve to a storefront displaying souvenir photos of the Dalton's and “Death Alley”.

Cut to the Old Timer, talking to Tod and Julie, who are now married.



The film was based on Emmett Dalton's autobiography. Universal announced the project in March 1940 with filming to begin in May. Stuart Anthony and Lester Cole worked on the script.[1] The railroad scenes were filmed on the Sierra Railroad in Tuolumne County, California.[2]


  1. ^ SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Universal to Produce 'When the Daltons Rode'--'Girls' Best Friend' Is Purchased 'TOO MANY HUSBANDS' HERE 'Northwest Passage,' Screen Version of Kenneth Roberts Book, at Capitol Today Of Local Origin, New York Times, March 7, 1940: 27.
  2. ^ Jensen, Larry (2018). Hollywood's Railroads: Sierra Railroad. Vol. Two. Sequim, Washington: Cochetopa Press. p. 19. ISBN 9780692064726.