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Drum Beat (1954)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Western | 6 April 1955 (Japan)
In 1872, Indian fighter Johnny MacKay is appointed peace commissioner for the California and Oregon territory but he faces tough opposition from the renegade Modocs led by their chief Captain Jack.


Delmer Daves


Delmer Daves (screenplay), Delmer Daves (story)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Alan Ladd ... Johnny MacKay
Audrey Dalton ... Nancy Meek
Marisa Pavan ... Toby
Robert Keith ... Bill Satterwhite
Rodolfo Acosta ... Scarface Charlie
Charles Bronson ... Kintpuash - aka Captain Jack
Warner Anderson ... Gen. Canby
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Blaine Crackel
Anthony Caruso ... Manok
Richard Gaines ... Dr. Thomas
Hayden Rorke ... President Ulysses S. Grant
Frank DeKova ... Modoc Jim
Perry Lopez ... Bogus Charlie
Isabel Jewell ... Lily White
Peggy Converse Peggy Converse ... Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant


President Grant orders Indian fighter MacKay to negotiate peace with the Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon. On the way he must escort Nancy Meek to the home of her aunt and uncle. After Modoc renegade Captain Jack's group engages in ambush and other atrocities, MacKay eventually ends up tracking Captain Jack down and fighting him one-on-one to apprehend him. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They called him a Wanderer because a horse was his home...they called him "Injun Lover" but never to his face...but they called on him when everyone else had run away ! See more »


Adventure | Western


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The actual fighting in the Modoc War occurred mostly in the lava beds of southern Klamath County, Oregon, and Northern California's Tule Lake area. See more »


When Captain Jack meets with the peace commission and asked by Johnny MacKay what it would take to make peace, he responds "all of the Lost River to the Klamath. River" See more »


Bill Satterwhite: Peace is going to be awfully hard to get.
Johnny MacKay: That's your business... not mine!
Bill Satterwhite: Bill, I need your help. Don't go running off half wild killin' Modocs. Only one got Lily.
Johnny MacKay: You think she was worth only one of them devils? You dish our your peace, Johnny. I'll dish out my end!
See more »


Featured in The Good Life (2007) See more »


Drum Beat
Music by Victor Young
Lyrics by Ned Washington
See more »

User Reviews

Standard western fare that has the US Cavalry trying to put down an Indian uprising after the Civil War
3 July 2001 | by Mickey-2See all my reviews

"Drum Beat", released in 1954 pits Alan Ladd, as an Indian fighter turned peace commissioner, against the leader of the Modoc Indians of N. California, led by Charles Bronson. Ladd, as Johnny McKay, has an intense bitterness towards Indians in general, as they had slaughtered his family years earlier. However, Pres. Grant desires him to work with the Modoc tribe, in particular, to bring peace in the area of California and Oregon. The Modoc chief, Captain Jack, played by Charles Bronson, feels that an area of land is Modoc land only, and it is his to take, and keep. He also has an intense feeling toward the army medals and blue coats, which, to him, are symbols of power and authority. He even kills a retired army colonel, and seizes the medals off the coat the man was wearing.

Ladd, with the aid of Modoc Indians that desire peace, attempts to settle the conflict, but hostilities do break out between the tribe and the soldiers. This was the role that Ladd seemed to shine best in, that of the tight-lipped, slow-to-anger, tough guy. Watchable western fare.

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Release Date:

6 April 1955 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Delmer Daves' Drum Beat See more »


Box Office


$1,100,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Jaguar Productions See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording) (magnetic prints)| Mono (optical prints)


Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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