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Only the Valiant (1951)

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Capt. Richard Lance is unjustly held responsible, by his men and girlfriend, for an Indian massacre death of beloved Lt. Holloway. Holloway is killed while escorting a dangerous Indian ... See full summary »



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Title: Only the Valiant (1951)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Capt. Richard Lance
Barbara Payton ...
Cathy Eversham
Cpl. Timothy Gilchrist
Lt. William Holloway
Trooper Kebussyan (as Lon Chaney)
Sgt. Ben Murdock
Joe Harmony
Warner Anderson ...
Trooper Rutledge
Steve Brodie ...
Trooper Onstot
Dan Riss ...
Lt. Jerry Winters
Terry Kilburn ...
Trooper Saxton
Herbert Heyes ...
Col. Drumm
Art Baker ...
Capt. Jennings
Hugh Sanders ...
Capt. Eversham


Capt. Richard Lance is unjustly held responsible, by his men and girlfriend, for an Indian massacre death of beloved Lt. Holloway. Holloway is killed while escorting a dangerous Indian chief to another fort's prison. The chief escapes. Knowing their fort is in danger of Indian attack, Lance takes a small group of army misfits to an abandoned nearby army fort to defend a mountain pass against the oncoming Indian assault. Their mission is to stall for time until reinforcements from another fort arrive. The men in this small group of malcontents, deserters, psychopaths and cowards all hate Capt. Lance and wish him dead. Much to their chagrin, the men recognize that Lance's survival instincts, military knowledge and leadership are the only chance the group has of staying alive. Written by E.W. DesMarais <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


THEY WERE SIX AND THEY FOUGHT LIKE SIX HUNDRED! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Adventure | Western


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 April 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Only the Valiant  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to a biography Gregory Peck himself authorized, during filming he had an affair with Barbara Payton. See more »


When Cpl. Gilchrist tells Trooper Saxton to go get him a new pick, Saxton places his shovel against the stone wall and leaves, you can plainly see the shovel start to fall. The next shot shows Saxton (below) and Gilchrist (above), but no shovel on the ground. See more »


Referenced in That Most Important Thing: Love (1975) See more »


Little Brown Jug
Written by Joseph Winner
Played by a harmonica player in the barracks
See more »

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User Reviews

Uneven film still entertains
15 January 2002 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Made a couple of years after Ford's 'Fort Apache' (1948), in some ways Douglas' violent film is reminiscent of that earlier work. Gregory Peck's straight-backed Captain Lance, the unpopular stickler for honour and adherent to all the fine print of duty, recalls Ford's military martinet Lieutenant Colonel Thursday (Fonda). There's a significant difference of course: Lance has a quiet competence throughout (and grudging respect of the ranks) conspicuously absent in Thursday's command. And whereas Thursday's actions lead to disaster, Lance pulls off a successful mission. Corporal Gilchrist (Ward Bond, also in 'Apache'), grudgingly admits as much as he declines to shoot the Captain, maddened at the height of his personal whisky drought: Lance is "the only man who can get them through", faults and all. Like the narrow pass through which the Apaches must move to attack the fort, Lance works within a narrow confine of responsibility and honour which can be dangerously constricting.

Interestingly, for a film ostensibly full of action, much significance attaches itself exactly to the opposite. For instance, it is Lance's unwillingness to draw upon others to clear his honour that estranges him from the post and his girlfriend Cathy after the death of Lieutenant Holloway. Most importantly, it is Lance's 'failure' to shoot the indian chief at the beginning, immediately after the fluke capture, which precipitates the death of so many others (a fault corrected at the end when Lance uses a knife in the last struggle). The film suggests that it necessary to bend the rules sometimes to achieve more effective results (whether or not this includes condoning murder in cold blood of a captive is another matter) - and positions various disrupting influences against the Captain as way of demonstration of the checks and balances this involves.

Chief of these is Corporal Gilchrist, who rather steals the film -particularly in the light of Peck's characteristic dullness as an actor. It is Gilchrist who is present at the start of events, he who rounds out the film. It is he too, who provokes a rare yielding, as far as military rules are concerned, by Lance: the Captain allows him a surreptitious swig of whisky just before the final attack. A boisterous, womanising drunkard, Bond plays a character to the hilt familiar from Ford's 'cavalry trilogy' and other films.

The forces contrasting Lance's discipline, control and code of honour rang neatly and conveniently against him at the fort. A deserter, a drunkard, a frustrated bully, an irrationally violent man - these and others, are the small command aptly chosen by Lance (being those the army can "spare mostly easily") to support his mission. In effect, such a select rabble represent the dregs of the army. But also, the weaknesses and darkness which all men contain, and naturally it is these which Lance has to face and master, as much as holding the pass against more physical incursion.

Reflecting this intrigue, the film is naturally rich in character acting. Besides Bond's loud bluffness, one also relishes Chaney's satanic Kebussyan (his character definitely *not* a Fordian derivative!), and the grouchy bitterness of Neville Brand's sergeant Murdock. Much of the film's pleasure lays in such incidentals, especially as the events at the pass, when examined logically, hardly make military sense (Why don't the indians just attack in one go? Why do they keep retreating back through the pass when they have broken out?)

Douglas, who went on to make the superb 'Rio Conchos' (1964) and the minor cult item 'Barquero'(1970) made too few Westerns, and does a good, tough job in direction. His pacing and grasp of tension helps to mask over the glaring differences in geology between the studio's 'pass' and the real thing shot on location. Co-scriptwriter Brown was to write Hawk's masterpiece El Dorado. In short: recommended, but for a more complex and convincing portrait of the cavalry under command see Ford.

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