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The Charge at Feather River (1953)

Approved | | Western | 11 July 1953 (USA)
In Colorado territory, Miles Archer is asked by the cavalry at Fort Bellows to aid in rescuing two white women abducted by the Cheyenne and to provide security for the railroad construction teams.

Director:

Gordon Douglas

Writer:

James R. Webb
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Guy Madison ... Miles Archer
Frank Lovejoy ... Sgt. Charlie Baker
Helen Westcott ... Anne McKeever
Vera Miles ... Jennie McKeever
Dick Wesson ... Pvt. Cullen
Onslow Stevens ... Grover Johnson
Steve Brodie ... Pvt. Ryan
Ron Hagerthy ... Johnny McKeever
Fay Roope Fay Roope ... Lt. Col. Kilrain
Neville Brand ... Pvt. Morgan
Henry Kulky Henry Kulky ... Pvt. Smiley
Lane Chandler ... Pvt. Zebulon Poinsett
Fred Carson Fred Carson ... Chief Thunder Hawk
James Brown ... Pvt. Connors
Ralph Brooks Ralph Brooks ... Pvt. Wilhelm
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Storyline

The story involves an overland journey through hostile Cheyenne territory to rescue two white women captured by the Cheyenne. One has turned renegade and is not anxious to be rescued as she is about to be married to Chief Thunder Hawk. Vera Miles dies and the cavalry comes to the rescue in the nick of time by a stream called Feather River. Knives, arrows, spears and tomahawks all come flying at the audience. Frank Lovejoy discourages a rattlesnake with tobacco juice and even gets off a shot into the audience. Written by Tom Kresin <tomk@meaddata.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Gallantry Never Equalled! Spectacle Never Before Seen! See more »

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 July 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Burning Arrow See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Clarita, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,650,000, 31 December 1953
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (WarnerPhonic/RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Second use of the iconic Wilhelm scream See more »

Goofs

In the final battle scene, there are three Indians charging the position. The Indian in the middle has his own reins, plus the reins of the rider on the left of screen. This is before they are fired at. Then, as the left-hand rider is shot, hangs on but then falls into the river, the central rider pulls his horse straight. See more »

Quotes

Grover Johnson, Artist: Well, if they had squaws with them, they would hardly be on the warpath, would they?
Miles Archer: Anybody who tells you he can figure Indians - he's lyin'!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Starman (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Thunderhawk's Gamble
24 July 2005 | by Ozirah54See all my reviews

Other commentators here have done an admirable job in addressing where "Charge at Feather River" fits in within the canon of Western movies, its similarity to "The Dirty Dozen" and other films of that genre, the use of 3-D effects, and even the origin of the Wilhelm scream. But what about the climactic, epic-making confrontation between Miles Archer (Guy Madison) and Chief Thunderhawk (Fred Carson)? In the action/adventure movies of the 1950s and 1960s, one knows the leaders will meet and fight it out. But when and where and how will it happen?

Thunderhawk has plenty of reasons to want to kill Archer himself. The whites are building a railroad through Cheyenne territory; their rescue effort has led to the death of Thunderhawk's bride-to-be. The cavalry troopers are occupying an island in the middle of the Feather River itself.

In the first charge, the Cheyenne have been repulsed. Their bodies float about the river. Stray horses amble about without direction. But the calm following this is deceptive. The Cheyenne prepare for another charge and this time Thunderhawk will personally take command.

At first, all goes well and a couple of the Guardhouse Brigade are picked off. Then, Thunderhawk commits his fatal mistake. At the head of about thirty to fifty braves, he veers off with only a half a dozen or so warriors to approach the island from the rear while the main bunch of Indians continues to hurl spears and to get shot, falling off their horses, and then bobbing in the river.

Thunderhawk, recognizable in his eagle feather headdress, leads his handpicked braves slowly up an embankment, on their bellies, in preparation for this "stealth" attack. But when they reach the crest of the embankment, above the river's edge, all goes wrong. They are seen too soon and all but Thunderhawk get shot down. Meanwhile, the main war party is beginning to back off.

Thunderhawk, without rifle or spear, cut off from all his men, draws his knife, preparing to do battle with Archer, one against one. Thunderhawk's very life now depends upon his skill with a knife. The bare-chested Cheyenne war chief, confident, powerful, motivated, eager for revenge and victory, squares off against Archer.

After only a few moments, Archer has maneuvered the chief to a slight earthen rise above the embankment, so that the daring, risk-taking, bold Cheyenne war chief stands a little bit above the cavalry officer. Archer goes for Thunderhawk's proud, taut, copper-bronze, native leader belly. As the knife goes in (off camera), Thunderhawk grunts in disbelief and topples, about to fall over the embankment. In a very clever shot, Guy Madison is seen looking over the embankment as Thunderhawk might have seen the view, his last before his death. Thunderhawk gives out a scream of terror as he tumbles down the embankment, splashing into the river. His horse makes way, only slightly, as the chief disappears under the water.

A valiant, determined, daring, native chief has lost his gamble.


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