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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 »
Secretary of the Interior:
I can say that it amounts to the same thing. The smaller the reservations, the easier they are to guard. You let the Army have its way, and it
[the Indian reservations]
Secretary of the Interior:
will end up the size of postage stamps. Exactly what the land grabbers want.
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Starts as compelling drama but turns into bad farce and never recovers
The Cheyenne nation has been gathered on their desert reservation waiting for supplies. The people are starving. Captain Thomas Archer (Richard Widmark) is sympathetic but powerless in the face of government indifference. Deborah Wright (Carroll Baker) is a Quaker trying to help the Cheyenne. Chiefs Little Wolf (Ricardo Montalban) and Dull Knife (Gilbert Roland) lead over 300 Cheyenne from their reservation in the Oklahoma territory to their traditional home in Wyoming. Archer is forced to stop them. The media exaggerate army casualties. Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz (Edward G. Robinson) resists political pressure to increase the conflict.
This starts off well with the vast landscape and compelling story of the Cheyenne mistreatment. Director John Ford is able to give dignity to the movie. Even with the mostly Latinos portraying Cheyennes, it isn't that badly done. There is some good action. It's set up for a serious compelling western. It is a somewhat long march. It's meandering and struggles to keep up the pace. Then it takes a bad comedy detour in Dodge City. Other than having James Stewart play Wyatt Earp, there is nothing worthwhile in that section. The tone is all wrong and breaks down the realism of the movie once and for all.
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