The film is a respectful telling of the 1877 campaign in Wyoming to contain the Indians by persuading them to leave the plains, sign the treaty of peace, and move to a new land in the south
Wagner who affirms to colonel John Lund in charge of Fort Laramie that he has no feeling about Indians, makes Indians friends, particularly with two young warriors Little Dog and American Horse...
Complications arise when Chief Broken Hand's daughter Appearing Day (Debra Paget) engaged to American Horse falls in love with Tanner (Wagner) and he with her Tanner's friendship with Little Dog grows slowly but surely It is one of the most enduring traits of the film, having just the right amount of momentum, frustration and humor...
Jeffrey Hunter steals the show with a great performance of the proud warrior Little Dog whose pen does not fit Cheyenne warriors' hand as well as the arrow Little Dog's blood ran hot at the council, gets angry and chooseswith his pal American Horse to meet the troops in battle
Eduard Franz is superb as the venerable Indian chief, Broken Hand, who called the council to tell them that on this day, they have agreed to take the offer of the white man and leave this country Hugh O'Brian is well chosen as Hunter's best friend, American Horse Noah Beery does one of his better work as the obedient cavalry lieutenant
Debra Paget reprises her role as the radiant Indian girl Appearing Day who would be happy in a white man's world We all remember her role as the delicate Indian healer girl Sonseeahray in Delmer Daves' memorable Western "Broken Arrow."
Robert D. Webb captures splendid panoramic shots that site expansive stretches of green fields and blue skies Webb does provide a handful of transcendent moments, the most spellbinding of which is Tanner's participation in honoring his brave friend
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
If you can forgive the obvious--the white actors playing natives and the "Me want cookies" delivery of lines by the Indians--you've got a movie so good that you may find yourself doing what I did as Robert Wagner (about as handsome a young man as a gal could ever hope for) tries to control his emotions as he tries to care for the lifeless body of Jeffrey Hunter. It's as loving a moment in a western as you may ever see, and as tragic--nearly as painful to watch as John Wayne getting the door closed on him at the end of The Searchers. I watched this scene and let out an audible "awwww."
My daughter heard me and thought I was talking to myself.
Wagner, who starts the movie as a lightweight actor in over his head, gains stature in a quiet and unobtrusive manner. You grow to like him, not through heroics but from calm intelligence. Wagner underplays his Josh Tanner; you respect his grit and compassion, even as you wonder how a guy could be that boyish.
I was just looking for a good, old-fashioned western when I taped White Feather off Fox Movies a few months ago. What I got was a heart- felt, eye-brimmingly sad, and astonishingly beautiful (to look at) film about the last days of the Plains Indians as a group of free peoples.
Made in 1954, White Feather was clearly designed to compete with the mind-suck of television by offering a very wide screen image. Director Robert Webb and his cinematographer take time to make you suck in air from the exotic Durango, Mexico locations (standing in for Wyoming). As the many nations head toward their shared misery of their reservation ghettos, they pass by the viewer, so close you can see the agonized stoicism of the womens' faces. The wide angle captures the bigness of the diaspora in reverse. The cinematography adds to the near-epic story by making us witness a tragedy writ large.
White Feather is sparingly violent, literate, and superbly acted film, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants something more than a Saturday Matinée shootemup.
This is a precedent setting Western which suffers from an average script, poor casting and botched editing. There are many similarities between this film and "Broken Arrow". These similarities begin with the sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans. Debra Paget is also on hand to once more play her role as an Indian woman in love with a White man. The main problem here is that Robert Wagner is not Jimmy Stewart. Delmer Daves had a role in both films, but unfortunately he was limited in "White Feather" to co-writing the script. Robert Webb directed this film.
This film seems to be the victim of poor editing. The Ann character played by Virginia Leith is potentially one of the most interesting in the film. There is more than a hint at the beginning that she has a dark secret. "Did my father tell you about me", she asks Josh Tanner (Wagner). Her father (played by Emile Meyer) later elaborates that "she is unfit merchandise". Unfortunately, this aspect of the plot is not developed. Jeffrey Hunter steals the show with his sympathetic and sensitive portrayal of Little Dog, a Cheyenne leader. He and Tanner become friends, and their friendship is one of the memorable elements in this film. Little Dog is proud to be a Cheyenne. He is torn between loyalty to his father, Chief Broken Hand (played by Eduard Franz), and his warrior code. In the end it becomes a choice between giving up his heritage to walk the White Man's road and dying well. The choice isn't as obvious as it seems. Little Dog's friend American Horse (played by Hugh O'Brian) has the opportunity to make the same choice and blows it.
This film's portrayal of the Native American tragedy is both sympathetic and different. Tanner tells the Colonel (played by John Lund) at the beginning that he has no feeling about Indians. He is indifferent. Ann makes her sympathies clear at the start. "I feel sorry for them," she says and she and Tanner watch the tribes as they prepare to sign a treaty giving up their lands. Ultimately, Tanner's friendship with Little Dog gives him a new perspective. Unlike "Devil's Doorway", another film which works hard to present the Native American view of the winning of the West, this film's ending is more upbeat. I still haven't been able to force myself to watch all of "Devil's Doorway".
Although marriages between Whites and Indians were not unusual in the real West, they had a difficult time surviving in the morality of films of the 40's and 50's. This film is one of the first in which a White character marries an Indian girl. Most Westerns of the time did not permit such relationships to become permanent. Paget's character in "Broken Arrow" is tragically killed. Similar violent endings terminate relationships in "Drum Beat", "Rock Island Line" and "Across the Wide Missouri". In "The Far Horizons" the Native American character ends the relationship by returning to her people so that one of the lead characters can marry a White woman. Dewey Martin's character in "The Big Sky" marries an Indian woman, but he has to make a choice. Will he return to the settlements where there is no place for her or will he live with the Blackfeet? Ultimately, he chooses Indian life. If the film's script had included part two of Guthrie's novel, we would see that this relationship was ultimately the victim of tragedy as well. Tanner's decision in this film to marry the Indian woman and live in the White world is truly unusual for films of the time.
It is the friendship between Tanner and Little Dog which makes the film worth watching. Wagner plays his relationship with Hunter's Little Dog with a lot more feeling and credibility than he does his romantic interest in Paget's character. Hunter's performance is a gem. Unlike Native American roles in so many other Westerns Hunter doesn't offer us the inane dialogue and dopey hand movements which we see too often in such roles. Although Tanner and Little Dog come from different worlds, their shared humanity is refreshingly realistic. It is ironic that their friendship becomes the catalyst for peace. Little Dog as a warrior is opposed to peace. "The treaty pen does not fit my hand", he jokes to Tanner.
Despite its flaws, this film is worth watching for its creative story and its sympathetic and credible portrayal of the Native American experience. The emphasis on story over action is unusual for such a Western and with a little better script it would have worked. Even so, it works well enough for me. I have watched it many times and will continue to do so.
Fox's WHITE FEATHER (1955) is a pallid reworking of their seminal 1950 James Stewart western "Broken Arrow". Pallid indeed, thanks in no small measure to the leaden performance of Robert Wagner in the leading role and the wearisome screenplay by the ubiquitous and usually more talented Delmer Daves who, by the way, had directed "Broken Arrow".
"Broken Arrow" expertly dealt with the plight of the Apache Indian and one man's efforts to make peace with them. The premise with "White Feather" is exactly the same except instead of the Apache this time it concerns the Cheyenne. Wagner's narration at the picture's opening informs us reassuringly, just like Jimmie Stewart did in the earlier film, that this is a true story and when the Indian speaks he will speak in our language etc. etc. Also Fox starlet Debra Paget, who played an Apache squaw in "Broken Arrow" (and was killed in that picture remember) turns up here as a Cheyenne squaw. She virtually plays the same role and, would you believe, is dressed in the same outfit. I guess she must have had a vision of a future studio call sheet and saved the costume! HUH? The only discernible difference in her role here is her name is not Sonseerahray but Appearing Day. Perhaps she should have been called Appearing EVERY Day!
Limply directed by the bland Robert Webb there is not one actor in this sorry affair (except maybe likable John Lund who isn't in it very much anyway) capable of lifting the thing above the banality bar. Webb has no idea of pacing and not once is the movie intruded upon with anything that resembles style. The Fox bland brigade - Robert Wagner, Jeffery Hunter, Debra Paget, Hugh O'Brian and Virginia Leith parade through this trite vehicle bemused and with a look of wonderment on their faces. Probably wondering when the day's shoot will be finished so they can go home. We, on the other hand, are home and also have a bemused look on our faces as we wonder what the hell we're doing watching this rubbish.
After all that however - I'll have to give this vacuous effort at least a two star rating for the gorgeous Cinemascope/Colour cinematography by Lucian Ballard and the excellent score by the great Hugo Friedhofer who incidentally also composed the music for "Broken Arrow" and here makes exceptional use of his love theme from the earlier picture as his Main Theme. But ultimately, I'm afraid, "White Feather" is a production straight from the bottom drawer and gets my vote as one of the most pedestrian westerns ever produced.
I really cannot understand Fox Home Entertainment putting out poor movies like "White feather", "The True Story Of Jesse James", "The Proud Ones", "Fort Courageous" etc. while left languishing in their vaults are fine westerns such as "Rio Conchos", "From Hell To Texas" and "Two Flags West". Go Figure!
This is a truly epic Western - epic in the moral sense: It operates as a great ceremony, a funeral ode for a great people, and the Homeric nobility of their doomed warrior heroes. The whole film sweeps majestically along with the native Americans to the bitter end of their doomed civilisation, and all the distracting side-plots are merely adumbrated at the margins of the action. The U.S. Cavalry, too, is given its due meed of admiration for the honest professionalism of its best soldiers, and the finest representatives of its military tradition. In this, Webb's film is reminiscent of a John Ford Cavalry Western. But it has something else: The awareness of a 'great game' - almost in the sense this term was applied by the English to their Imperial adventure being played out with mutual honour and respect, even admiration and fondness, between the great rivals for possession of an entire Continent.
This is a truly great film, unblemished by the jittery special pleading of Hollywood that bespeaks the unacknowledged guilt of the American White Man. This is a sincere film - not a film of gestures: It is, as I began by saying, a grand Ceremony. And in the Ceremony is the aching sense of the loss of a Great Game which conferred greatness upon all who were brave enough to participate on equal terms.
I used to see most westerns in the fifties, but for some reason I was unable to see "White Feather". I kept reading reviews about it, though, and basically all of them said the film was good, nothing great, but good. I thought it would be a type of "Broken Arrow" with some variations, so did not go out of my way to see it. Finally I saw it and was enthusiastic about it. No film has shown the agony of Indians which have to move from their land in such a sensitive way. Jeffrey Hunter was a great actor and he proves it in his magnificent performance of Little Dog. The romance between Robert Wagner and Debra Paget makes most of the other films that show the same, pale. But the greatness of the film comes with the last part where Cinemascope has never been better used to show at the same time the army and the Indians and the unexpected final developments. This film did not have James Stewart as an actor, but Robert Wagner did just as well, neither was Anthony Mann or Delmer Daves (who co-wrote the script) the director, but Robert D. Webb did a great job. Don't miss this film, it is one of the all time great westerns.
Looked at this on TV as just another western but found myself admiring the camera-work, scenery and performances. Though the direction was at times unexciting, the story was well told and dignified by a good performance by Wagner, so very handsome that it is no wonder the young squaw wants her first kiss with him. Jeffery Hunter, so overlooked but always worth watching, looking incredibly fit (sad to think he died just 4 years later) gave a very strong performance as the head-strong son of the chief, (reminds me of Sal Mineo in Cheyenne Autumn (same story?)) who rides around with Hugh O Brian (Wyatt Earp as an native American!). at the end the scenes between Wagner and Hunter are poignant and stay with you. The sad face of the chief says it all. The film was just a bit overlong and drags in parts which meant I missed bits that I should not have done, but there are some magnificent scenery and cavalry and Indian charges.
"White Feather" was one of the first westerns to make good use of the wide screen Cinemascope panorama. Director Robert D. Webb uses all of the screen, filling it with bright vibrant color and plenty of action.
The story centers around the efforts of the US Army in 1877 to negotiate treaties with the Indian Tribes to relocate them following the Indian wars which included Little Big Horn a year earlier. All have agreed except for the Cheyenne.
Into all of this rides surveyor Josh Tanner (Robert Wagner) who is supposed to map out a site for a future town. There's gold in them thar hills, you see. Along the way, he finds the body of a miner. He reports to Colonel Lindsay (John Lund) and learns of the problems in getting the Cheyenne to agree to move. Tanner finds a room at Magruder's Store. He meets Ann Magruder (Virginia Leith) an an attraction forms. Tanner is told to stay away from her by her bigoted father (Emile Meyer).
When riding with Ann, Tanner meets two young Cheyenne warriors, Little Dog (Jeffrey Hunter) and American Horse (Hugh O'Brian). Tanner earns the Indian's respect and is invited to their camp. There Tanner meets Little Dog's sister, Appearing Day (Debra Paget) and a romance develops. American Dog's father the Grand Chief Broken Hand (Eduard Franz) returns to the village and announces that the Cheyenne will sign the treaty and move south with the other tribes.
Little Dog and American Horse defy the chief and decide to remain on their land and fight the Army alone. Meanwhile, Appearing Day, who had been promised to American Horse leaves the village and goes to be with Tanner. American Dog attacks Tanner but is subdued and jailed. Little Dog breaks him out killing two soldiers in the act. As the fort's entire compliment and the Cheyenne watch, Little Dog and American Horse launch their attack and.......................................
The acting is uniformly good. The boyish Wagner carries off the lead role well, although he never manages to conduct that survey. Hunter and O'Brian are excellent as the two renegade Cheyenne. Lund has little to do as the Cavalry Colonel. Franz makes an authoritative Chief who puts the welfare of his own people above all else, including that of his family.
Also in the cast are Noah Beery Jr. as Lt. Ferguson, Milburn Stone as the Indian Commissioner and Iron Eyes Cody as a Cheyenne Chief.
You have to see this one in the wide screen format.
White Feather is a combination of the plots of both Broken Arrow and Cheyenne Autumn. It's the story of a romance between Robert Wagner and Indian princess Debra Paget set against the background of the surrender of the Cheyenne nation to the white man.
Wagner is part of delegation sent to the Cheyenne chief Eduard Franz to negotiate a treaty with the Cheyenne. Although Franz's son Jeffrey Hunter is for no surrender at any price, he and Wagner become friends. Wagner becomes more than friends with Hunter's sister Paget, something that arouses the old jealous green eye in Hugh O'Brian, an Cheyenne warrior who figures Paget's his.
Paget's not going to find it easy in the white world in any case. The post sutler Emile Meyer's not liking Indians in any case and even though his daughter Virginia Leith becomes friends with Paget, she's got a thing for Wagner herself.
White Feather is a sympathetic portrayal of the Cheyenne in the last days of a proud warrior nation. Best in the cast is Jeffrey Hunter, the man who won't give in and most of all won't surrender his pride.
John Lund as the post commander and Milburn Stone the civilian treaty negotiator are in the cast as well. White Feather is a fine western that does not get near enough acclaim.
I am not that bothered by historical facts when all I need is a good Western to relax with. And this fits the bill perfectly. If I wanted historical accuracy I would go over to the History Channel and then I Would have to think and not be able to relax.
Perfect scenery, magnificently depicted Indian camp, great horse riding, good acting all round, even the self critical Mr Lund was perfect for his role.
Westerns of today just do not have the old magic.
Just as an incidental rider: when as a boy in the Saturday matinée Our gang would always cheer the Calvary, now I have grown up the Indians have my cheers and sympathy. What was done to them will forever be a massive blot on the history of the USA.
The production company sure got its money's worth by filming in Durango, Mexico. Those scenes of mass Indian migration, along with the massed warriors and cavalry troop of the climax are impressive as heck. I expect a lot of Mexican folks picked up a payday as a result. In fact, where this western really succeeds is in providing spectacle. The fort scenes plus the Indian encampments are both big and convincing.
The storyline may not be exactly fresh—some Indians wanting to make peace while others don't, plus the standard romantic interest—nonetheless, the individual stories are woven well into the larger conflict. Note too, how the screenplay (based on a true story) takes a generally sympathetic view of the Indians' plight— that is, being forced to move by treaty from their traditional lands. This was during a period when Hollywood was beginning to recognize Indians as human beings instead of convenient targets for repeating rifles.
Of course, an A-production requires a guaranteed box-office, and who better to bring in young folks than a leading heartthrob of the day, Robert Wagner. His rail thin frame may not look like John Wayne, but he still manages to convey the needed authority despite his pretty boy appearance. Also, Hunter remains physically impressive as the conflicted Little Dog.
I guess my only gripe is that everyone, Indians included, looks like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine. I mean the costumes are so squeaky clean and perfectly fit that you'd never guess this is supposed to be the dusty frontier. Anyway, this TCF release remains an underrated cowboy-Indian flick, especially for all its impressive crowd scenes.
(In passing—good touch allowing ambient noises such as barking dogs, squawking birds, and crying kids, to color the treaty signing scene. Usually, Hollywood would remove these as distractions, but here they lend a noisy realistic touch.)
It had been years since I'd seen this film. It has been subject of a recent discussion by members of the Jeffrey Hunter group that I have just recently become a member of . As a previous reviewer commented, I would also buy it when and if it becomes available on video. Along with Seven Cities of Gold, it is one of Jeffrey Hunter's earliest outstanding performances, which he seldom gets the credit he deserves. As with most of the films that Hunter appears in with RJ Wagner, he gets short shrift. His performance as "Little Dog" is sensitive and realistic. Bearing in mind that the film was made in 1955,when the prevailing thought was "the only good Indian... well,you know, White feather stands up better than most.
As a "Western movie" buff, I am surprised that this film is not more familiar to aficionados of the genre. It is a near epic, classical film.
Of course, it suffers from the usual defect common to Westerns made in this era: The Native American leads are played by white actors and there isn't adequate time to fully develop all of the characters.
Still, it is a magnificent film. It has elements of Shane, which was made several years before, and of The Searchers, which was made a year after.
The sweep and the grandeur are very reminiscent of John Ford films. No expense was spared in cinematography, locations, and the number of extras that were employed. Hundreds of Native Americans were employed, including women and children of all ages. The number of mounted cavalry approximate the size of a cavalry regiment. There weren't that many mounted soldiers in John Ford's cavalry trilogy. And, it was all achieved without the aid of computer graphics.
The dialog is realistic and the story, itself, is based on a true incident. A young Robert Wagner is very believable and likable in his solid, understated role.
This film is enormously enjoyable. I remember seeing it in the 1950s at a drive-in theater, and if only I could do so again!
"White Feather" could be a very interesting and memorable movie. But it became only "average", though there are some interesting view points about portraying the proud Cheyenne. Director Webb and Writer Daves give a more authentic look than any other western of that time. Jeffrey Hunter plays "Little Dog" a humane and very proud son of a chief. He is by far the best actor in the movie.
John Lund gives a solid performance. Robert Wagner looks good as the young hero but his acting...?
Completely undeveloped is the interesting character of Ann (pale: Virginia Leith): She is in love with Wagner but also feels sympathy for the Indians and especially for Wagner´s future wife Debra Paget (who were much better in "Broken Arrow" five years before).
The final scene is far too melodramatic and too long. It destroys the complete impression of the movie.
Positive Aspects beside Hunter´s sensitive portray and the description of the Indians are the great landscape and costly, effective mass-scenes.
This is one of a number of 1950s Westerns which attempted to redress the balance by painting a fairly sympathetic view of the American Indian; even so, to spice up proceedings, we get a couple of rebels (second lead Jeffrey Hunter among them) opposing the impending peace treaty offered by the white man. Incidentally, though inspired by a factual incident, the film's plot line basically mingles elements from two contemporary examples of the genre BROKEN ARROW (1950; whose director, Delmer Daves, contributed to the script of this one) and ARROWHEAD (1953). With this in mind, the film doesn't really bring anything new to the table but, made with consummate Hollywood professionalism, the result is undeniably entertaining nonetheless.
Casting is adequate, too: apart from the afore-mentioned Hunter (though not exactly convincing as a redskin), we get Robert Wagner as an all-too-young Government agent hero who mediates between the two parties, Debra Paget (in a virtual reprise of her BROKEN ARROW role and who eventually defies her people by eloping with Wagner), John Lund as the experienced Cavalry officer in charge, Eduard Franz as Hunter's dignified chieftain father, Hugh O'Brian (as with Peter Graves in the same director's BENEATH THE 12-MILE REEF , a viewing of which preceded this one, he's the heroine's brash but unloved intended), Virginia Leith as a more mature secondary love interest for Wagner, and Emile Meyer as her racist storekeeper father. By the way, I've just taped the first cinematic adaptation of Ira Levin's thrller A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956) off Cable TV which I noticed shares a remarkable number of cast and crew members with the title under review (not least its hunky stars)!
Being a largely outdoor film and in order to supply the appropriate grandeur, Lucien Ballard's widescreen photography is rather frustratingly limited to long or medium shots which, when screened on a normal-sized TV set, unfortunately leads to a certain detachment on the viewer's part; by the way, in the accompanying poster gallery on the DVD, the fact that patrons would be watching a "Cinemascope" production was deemed a bigger draw than even the stars involved! The film culminates with an unusual sort of showdown as Hunter and O'Brian face an entire cavalry unit (apparently an Indian battle custom which explains the film's title) however, the duo's come-uppance sees the personal intervention of Franz, who's not pleased with their 'brave' gesture; this is then followed by a lengthy (and, I'd even say, unwarranted) scene in which Wagner meticulously prepares Hunter for burial.
The Fox DVD includes quite a nice assortment of extras: these include a reproduction of the original pressbook (filled with amusingly irrelevant ballyhoo), a reasonably comprehensive photo gallery, and a number of trailers for the studio's other catalog entries in the genre (among them the desirable Victor Mature vehicle FURY AT FURNACE CREEK  surprisingly narrated and carrying the personal endorsement of none other than Gregory Peck! and latterday black-and-white potboiler CONVICT STAGE , which I'd never heard of myself and can't fathom why it was even deemed worthy of a DVD release).
This film centers around the Cheyenne tribe's move from their homeland in Wyoming to a southern plains territory. The army's task is to keep gold-hungry prospectors out of Indian country until they move to their new location. Robert Wagner is sincere as a surveyor who befriends the Indians but knows that their way of life is over. The picture does not have any cavalry-Indian battles but both sides face off against each other in the film's tense final moments. Jeffrey Hunter is a fierce Cheyenne warrior, and Debra Paget reprises her role in "Broken Arrow" as an Indian maiden. John Lund, Hugh O'Brian, and Emile Meyer, old hands at westerns, are all good, as are the colorful Mexican locations. Hugo Friedhofer's pulsating score is a plus, although some cues from "Broken Arrow" echo here and there.
Robert Wagner( Josh Tanner) was climbing up the ladder of success in this movie and gave an excellent performance along with Debra Paget(Appearing Day) and even Noah Berry, Jr.(Lt. Ferguson)(son of the famous Wallace Berry of the 1930's and 40's) The photography was fantastic and the plot was not just one of those typical Western films. In many ways, this picture made you feel very sorry for the Native Americas of this country who lost their wonderful land and Buffalo and had to locate South in very barren lands. Try to catch this movie on TV and you will definitely enjoy the youthful face of Robert Wagner along with great actors and a wonderfully made film of 1955!
I have seen this film many times over the years. I have always thought that it is a thoughtful slant on the usually savage indian theories that inhabit many western themed films. Intelligent Indians? Yes.
The major flaw to me in this film, besides the exclusion of the "Ann" charactor, is Robert Wagner's rather dull dialogue delivery.
The photography is glorious Technicolor, and Cinemascope, and shows some beautiful locations to their advantages. Being in Cinemascope, this film looks a bit odd on regular TV screens. You will enjoy it more if you can see a "letterboxed" version somewhere, or better yet, an actual scope print in a theatre.
I also hope that 20th Century-Fox decides to release the film on home video. I will buy a copy!
I have to agree that this movie was made well before its time. I can't believe this is not on video yet. Somebody at 20th Century Fox should be looking into bringing this back on video. Out of all the movies that deals with Political Correctness, this should make the native American feel proud of their heritage, and history, because this movie shows just how bold, bright and smart the indians were without a lot of bloodshed, and it doesn't show them running around like renegades. I felt good after leaving the theatre, because this movie showed indian strength and how brave and smart they are as a proud people.
This is not the typical "Calvery-to-the rescue" movie with the indians getting slaughtered and defeated. This time the indians win, but with smarts instead of bow and arrows. It showed that you can WIN in sheer numbers and strength, without a shot being fired. If they can put Spartacas on video, then they MUST put "White feather" on video. Are you listening 20th Century Fox?
From the era of wide screen CinemaScope comes this fine western about dealing with the Cheyenne Indians in Wyoming in 1870.
The film benefits from having a good script that keeps things tense, good acting, and excellent cinematography (which was far superior 50 years ago compared to today's movies).
There's no sense retelling the plot, but female viewers ought to love Robert Wagner in this role, as well as Jeffrey Hunter (showing lots of tan skin) in his Indian makeup. Speaking of skin, the lovely and usually clothed neck to toe Debra Paget gets to show some neck, shoulders and back -- however briefly.
But the main thing is the tense story. Without much gunfire the film provides almost no opportunity for a snack bar break. Please take the other low ratings with a grain of salt. Liberals and their intrusive and annoying PC mantra will no doubt be annoyed by the frequent use of the word "Indian" as well as having whites cast as Indians. Oh the shame! This despite the positive view of Indians reflected in the film; herein they even have a healthy sense of humor. Humor, that's just not liberal. At least nobody smokes a cigarette.
This is an excellent western. It shows the Indians with dignity and does not belittle them by portraying them as a screaming horde. It is a very interesting film and was advanced for its time. I saw it in the cinema twice and once on TV (Cinemax). Sadly, it has not been shown in sometime and is not available on video, which is a tragedy. There are some wonderful scenes where the Indians 'sweep' across the plain and one gets a small glimpse of what an incredible sight they must have made when they were free to wander across their own land.
This was meant to be an epic film: a detailed examination of the final days of the Northern Plains Indians as an adversary of would-be settlers and US army personnel, trying to delay the onslaught of gold seekers into their sacred hunting grounds as long as possible, but recognizing that, with the bison virtually exterminated, the days of their traditional way of life were numbered. We could interpret the anticipated marriage of surveyor Josh Tanner(Robert Wagner) and Cheyenne princess Appearing Day(Debra Paget) at film's end, as a symbolic union of Native Americans and Europeans, hopefully at peace with itself, despite various ethnic origins. John Ford's later epic "Cheyenne Autumn" is another epic tale of another Cheyenne migration, from their Oklahoma reservation back north to part of their ancestral territory: the reverse of the migration inferred in the present film. Besides the present film, Universal also released in 1955, another epic story of the end of free-roaming northern plains tribes in the biographical "Chief Crazy Horse", another leader who, like Little Dog and American Horse in the present film, refused to give into the clear march of history. Also, many reviewers have noted the many similarities between this film and the prior epic "Broken Arrow", which dealt with the Apache, rather than northern plains tribes.
The plot is mainly concerned with the conflict between father(Chief Broken Hand) and son(Little Dog) over whether or not to sign the peace treaty with the US government, in which the Cheyenne give up their claim to their traditional homelands, in exchange for a small reservation to the south in Indian Territory(future Oklahoma). The sad-faced father knows either is a bad bargain, but decides they have a better chance of survival as a people in a southern reservation in the absence of their life-sustaining bison.
The massed formations of US and Cheyenne cavalry and the numerous Cheyenne women and children included, photographed in wide angle Cinema Scope Technicolor give the impression that this really is a turning point in history. The aggregation of a large cavalry contingent in the Cheyenne village, surrounded by many braves, some with rifles, others with bow and arrow, is visually spectacular and scary. It shows a great deal of trust between the leaders. As a result, there is no fight to the death between the two cavalries, as some viewers might wish to see. Thanks to the wisdom of Tanner and Chief broken Hand, only 2 contrary braves and one trooper die in this potential conflagration, during the signing of the peace treaty. In addition to the supreme leaders, the behavior of Little Dog and American Horse is interesting, and not entirely what you would expect. I will leave the details for you to see.
I believe that Robert Wagner, occasional narrator and main character, is miscast. Like Robert Ryan, he generally shows little emotion, generally being slow, deliberate and halting. I just didn't find him believable as a lone frontiersman wandering around the edge of Cheyenne territory. Debra Paget, as Princess Appearing Day, is even stiffer, and too light skinned to make a believable Cheyenne. It is said that Broken Hand requires 200 ponies as the groom's bride price for her. However, when she runs away to Fort Laramie, seeking Tanner, her father disowns her. Thus, Wagner doesn't have to come up with the 200 ponies, nor the chief's permission, to marry her.
Before Tanner began to romance Appearing Day, he developed a platonic romance with Ann(Virginia Leith), daughter of the store keeper at Fort Laramie. According to her father , she was damaged goods for a wife, not explaining what that meant. Apparently something traumatic happened when she was 13, and she has hidden from men since. Her father says he killed a man who harmed her. Her father says that Tanner is the first man he has noticed she likes since then. After Tanner formed a relationship with Appearing Day, he neglected Ann. She didn't seem to mind, and even was friendly with the princess.
As was customary during this era, Caucasians made up as Cheyenne were cast for the featured Cheyenne....When a brave wanted to formally challenge another to a duel, they threw down a knife with a white feather attached. This was done when Little Dog and American Horse wanted to challenge the US cavalry.
In the beginning, it's claimed this tale is a true story. I was unable to find on the web any details on the principal personnel historically involved, but a few other films with a similar claim turned out to be just as fictional as any other Hollywood film.
The opening narration states that the events in the picture really happened, but I'll take that with a few grains of salt. One thing I can attest to is that I would never have recognized any of the actors portraying the principal characters here. Robert Wagner at twenty five years old looked impossibly young and he'd already appeared in a dozen films. When the opening credits rolled I saw the names of Jeffrey Hunter and Hugh O'Brian, but when the story got going I forgot about that and it never occurred to me they had the roles of Little Dog and American Horse. I would have lost a bet on O'Brian ever playing an Indian in a picture. I'll just have to go back and check it out once again.
The story throws a bit of a curve ball at the viewer with respect to Josh Tanner's (Wagner) romantic prospects. What looks like a relationship developing between him and Ann Magruder (Virginia Leith) is suddenly turned upside down when Cheyenne squaw Appearing Day (Debra Paget) comes on the scene. I thought she was quite attractive but that whole business about being worth two hundred ponies seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. Fortunately, her father Broken Hand (Eduard Franz) didn't hold Tanner to it.
It turns out that the title of the picture refers to a Cheyenne challenge against honoring the treaty Broken Hand has signed with the Cavalry. Little Dog and American Horse take up the fight but it's a short lived one as they are both dispatched summarily, 'Horse' by his own Chief Broken Hand who saw fit to watch his son die fighting the white man.
The picture closes stating that Tanner and Appearing Day married, with Broken Hand living long enough to witness their grown son attend the military academy at West Point. I tried looking it up, but I think a few more grains of salt were sprinkled on this tale as it ended.
This movie is one of those weird "remake" movies they used to do ala "Rio Bravo"/"El Dorado", or "Support Your Local Sheriff/Support Your Local Gunfighter". In this case, "White Feather" is a loose remake of 1950's "Broken Arrow". Delmer Daves, who directed BA, wrote this screenplay and Debra Paget reprises her role as the most European looking Indian maiden of all time.
Here's what I liked:
This movie had a big budget and it shows in the recreation of the Indian villages. I have never seen such large representations of tribal villages. They are almost small cities. Unfortunately, they also seem phony and sterile.
For once a Western leading man is having romantic relationships with women his own age!
Positive Indian point of view theme is OK.
That's it for positives.
Hard to know where to start for negatives:
As mentioned, a blatant remake of "Broken Arrow".
Robert Wagner gives one of the worst leading man performances I've seen in a Western. And that hair style. Looks like he just walked off the set of "Jailhouse Rock". I finally understand why they had to use old guys like Wayne, Stewart, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper etc. for leading men in the '50's. None of the young guys could act!!
There's no heavy. This drains almost all the dramatic tension out of the story.
All the other acting jobs are terrible. I didn't buy Jeffery Hunter for a second as an Indian warrior. It was hard to buy any of the Indians because they were all played by obviously Causcasian actors.
Very little attempt at comic relief.
Fundamental relationships of friendship between Little Dog and Josh and especially Appearing Day and Josh seemed awkward and implausible.
Not one decent supporting acting job to salvage this mess.