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The story of the peace mission from the US cavalry to the Cheyenne Indians in Wyoming during the 1870s. The mission is threatened when a civilian surveyor befriends the chief's son and falls for the chief's daughter. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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A fine addition to the liberal Western collection.
White Feather is out of Panoramic Productions, it's directed by Robert D. Webb and stars Robert Wagner, Debra Paget, John Lund, Eduard Franz & Jeffrey Hunter. It's adapted from a John Prebble story by Delmer Daves & Leo Townsend. It was filmed in Durango, Mexico, with Lucien Ballard on cinematography duties (CinemaScope/Technicolor) and Hugo Friedhofer provides the score. Plot centres around the peace mission from the US cavalry to the Cheyenne Indians in Wyoming during the 1870s, but problems arose because a few of the Cheyenne refused to leave their hunting grounds.
One of the few 1950s Westerns to show sympathy towards the Indian plight, White Feather is a well intentioned and well executed movie. It suffers a little from familiarity with Broken Arrow (1950), where Delmer Daves had directed James Stewart and Debra Paget thru a similar script to the one that's now in front of Wagner and Paget; and lets face it-Wagner is no Jimmy Stewart- and Robert Webb is no Delmer Daves-but there's more than enough good here to lift it above many other liberal Westerns.
Away from the endearing and emotive story (and it is as the Cheyenne are forced out of Wyoming by the Federals), the film also boasts high points for the Western fan to gorge upon. It's gorgeously shot in CinemaScope by Ballard, a first class lens-man in the genre, and Friedhofer's score is pulsating, evocative and in tune with the tone of the tale. Also of note is that these Native Americans aren't caricatures or pantomime Indians. They may be being played by white actors (Hunter & Franz do especially good work), but they feel real and come out as the human beings they were. In fact the whole movie looks convincing.
There's some missteps along the way; such as Wagner over acting and having a voice that's sounds out of place in the Wild West, while the romantic angle (Paget is so beautiful here who could not fall in love with her?) does at times threaten to clog up the narrative. But these things don't hurt the film. On the flip side there's the smooth pacing of the piece, it's only when the tense and exciting climax has arrived that you realise how well the slow burn first half was handled. And Webb may well be a second unit director in all but name here, but his construction of the scenes with hundreds of extras is top notch work.
A fine and under seen Western that is based on actual events and doesn't over egg its pudding. 7/10
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