When the government agency fails to deliver even the meager supplies due by treaty to the proud Cheyenne tribe in their barren desert reserve, the starving Indians have taken more abuse ... See full summary »
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Legendary director John Ford's final film involving seven dedicated missionary women in China circa 1935 trying to protect themselves from the advances of a Mongolian barbaric warlord and his cut-throat gang of warriors.
When the government agency fails to deliver even the meager supplies due by treaty to the proud Cheyenne tribe in their barren desert reserve, the starving Indians have taken more abuse than it's worth and break it too by embarking on a 1,500 miles journey back to their ancestral hunting grounds. US Cavalry Capt. Thomas Archer is charged with their retrieval, but during the hunt grows to respect their noble courage, and decides to help them. Written by
Spencer Tracy was first cast as the secretary of interior Karl Shultz, but had a heart attack and was replaced by Edward G. Robinson, whose scenes were entirely photographed in studios, including the climatic meeting scene between Shultz and the Cheyenne chiefs, in which the background had to be done with screen process. See more »
In various shots, most notably when we first see the cavalry outpost, jet contrails can be seen in the skies. See more »
This is probably the wrong place to discuss the plight of the indigenous population of North America but there's no denying the Native American has got a raw deal over the last couple of hundred years and watching CHEYENNE AUTUMN you're left in no doubt whose side John Ford is taking . Wouldn't it have been so much better then if Ford had actually cast Native Americans to play the Cheyenne characters in the movie instead of latino actors ? Of course you can't say Ford was guilty of hypocrisy in doing this , in 1972 Marlon Brando sent an Indian women to collect his best actor Oscar in protest at the plight of the native population of North America . Only thing is that she wasn't an Indian at all she was of Italian descent . Same as the tear stained Indian chief in the legendary advert from the 1970s who weeps when he sees the litter the white man has left in his country - He wasn't an Indian at all he was an Italian American . Say what you like about Kevin Costner but at least he had the decency to cast red Indians in his liberal study of American tribes in DANCES WITH WOLVES
I shouldn't be too hard on Ford since this was typical of film makers at the time , it didn't matter if you were Hispanic , Jewish or black you could still pass as a redskin . Hell if you were a white European by ethnicity you could still play an Indian , you'd just have to put on some brown make up and viola you're Chief Running Horse . No my criticism of this movie isn't to do with the portrayal of American tribes , it's all to do with a totally unfocused screenplay . There we are watching the white man stabbing the noble Indian population in the back once again , the Cheyenne have to trek across the desert plains then for some reason which is unknown to anyone except the producers the story cuts to Dodge City with the hopelessly miscast James Stewart and Arthur Kennedy playing Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday . Serious historical academics will also have a problem recognising these real life characters while the rest of the audience will wonder if this th same movie they were watching 20 minutes ago . Then we cut back to the Cheyenne trek again as we're left to wonder what the heck the Dodge City segment had to do with this aspect of the story
CHEYENNE AUTUMN isn't a total loss . I'll repeat it does take the side of the Indians and refreshingly humanizes them and Ford deserves some credit in not casting John Wayne in Richard Widmark's role and like most of Ford's films the cinematography is breath taking but the movie comes crashing down due to the screenplay that seems to have two entirely different stories within its pages
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