Dr. Allen Seward (Robert Francis) is assigned to a western cavalry post where his predecessors had been drunks and slackers. The post doesn't take kindly to him either, especially after he disregards regulations and tends to sick Indians on the malaria-infested reservation. The Indians break away from the reservation to move to a healthier higher ground, and when they join with the Comanches to besiege the fort, Seward is branded as a "woodhawk", the bird that turns against its own. Donna Reed is present as the niece of the post commander; Phil Carey is a cavalry captain that believes the only good Indian is a dead Indian, and May Wynn (who shared a screen debut with Francis in "The Caine Mutiny)is the white girl raised by the Indians and married to the chief's son. Francis would make only two more films before being killed in a 1955 plane crash. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Had he lived to make more than the four films he did Robert Francis might have done a lot of the roles Tab Hunter did. In his memoirs Hunter said that he did so many military based film that he could have qualified for veteran's benefits. The two looked like they could have been brothers and all four of Francis's films had a military background.
They Rode West is a cavalry western and Francis is a young doctor assigned to an army post out west where both the Kiowas and Comanches are pretty hostile. The Kiowas are coming down with malaria living near a swamp as are the military, but the Kiowas have been put there by the government.
Like William Holden in The Horse Soldiers, Francis sees himself as a doctor first and a soldier second. He helps the Indian sick and then commits the unpardonable sin in the military by disobeying orders and telling the tribe they have to move to higher ground.
Nevertheless his sincere concern for the health of the Indians later stands the cavalry in good stead.
Along with Francis are Donna Reed as the niece of the commanding officer, May Wynn as a white Indian maid captive and Philip Carey as his rival who has a more traditional frontier view of the Indians.
Francis acquitted himself well in his first film, sad indeed his career was so short.
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