Wagon Train (1957–1965)
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A Man Called Horse 

Horse, a name he comes to be called, is searching for himself. Since he doesn't feel that he found it in Boston, where he grew up, he tries out west, under the watchful eye of a small tribe of Crow.



(story) (as Dorothy Johnson), (teleplay)




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Major Seth Adams
Anthony Numkena ...
Little Hunter (as Anthony E. Numkena)
Jorie Wyler ...
Jacqueline Mayo ...
Lucinda Lorimer
Owen Cunningham ...
Mr. Lorimer
Edgar Dearing ...
Bill Hale ...
1st Cowboy
William Riggs ...
Crow Brave
Sioux Brave
Bill Hawks (credit only)


A law clerk in Boston hopes to marry his boss's daughter but is spurned by her father and her because he was an orphan. He heads west to make a new life and finds himself the prisoner and slave of a Crow Indian tribe. He takes the Indian name Horse and plots his eventual escape which is foiled by a horse. Events lead to him becoming accepted as part of the tribe after killing an enemy Sioux warrior. He eventually marries the sister of his captor. Together they try to return to the white world but she is spurned. They return to the Crow but his bride dies in child birth. He finds his bride's mother and the only mother he knew dying. He finds the wagon train and asks for their help to save her. While she rests, he tells his life story for the first time to members of his own race. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

tribe | horse | crow | mother | bride | See All (17) »








Release Date:

26 March 1958 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Departing from its normal segment naming ("The so-and-so Story"), this tale of a Caucasian among the Native Americans predated the hit Richard Harris movie of the same name by over a decade. See more »


Flint McCullough: Doesn't take much to make some men happy. For me, I like a shave and a bath. Maybe get into town now and then. See a woman.
See more »


Remade as A Man Called Horse (1970) See more »

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User Reviews

TV western offers in-depth treatment of life among the Crow Indians
28 January 2017 | by See all my reviews

"A Man Called Horse" is an episode of "Wagon Train" that veers from the show's usual formula and tells a story in flashback that doesn't involve any of the series principals. It's based on a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson that was later turned into a feature film of the same title in 1970. I've read the story and this TV episode is much closer to it than the later film. Thanks to the favorable comments given in the previous review (by bkoganbing), I was prompted to watch this when it aired on the Encore Western Channel on January 27, 2017 and I'm glad I did.

It tells the story of a nameless man from Boston, played by Ralph Meeker, who travels out west to find himself after being jilted by his fiancée when her father refuses to allow the marriage. He is the lone survivor of a party of men attacked by Crow Indians and is taken as a slave by the chief, Yellow Robe (Michael Pate), and turned over to Yellow Robe's mother (Celia Lovsky) to work for her. He soon adopts the name Horse and the reason is explained in the narration. He becomes friends with an adolescent warrior-in-training named Little Hunter (Anthony Numkena) and learns the bow-and-arrow and other skills from him. Horse is resigned to his fate as a slave of the Crow until a victorious encounter with an attacking Sioux warrior leads to a rise in status in the tribe, freeing him from slavery and allowing him to marry Yellow Robe's sister, Bright Star (Joan Taylor) and being accepted by Yellow Robe as a brother. At one point, eager to reunite with his own people, Horse leaves the camp with Bright Star to settle in a nearby trading post. Rough treatment by bigots who deride him as a "squaw man" sends the couple back to the Crow camp. Eventually tragedy strikes in various forms and Horse is left to seek help from the wagon train, forming the episode's opening, where he tells his story to series regulars Adams (Ward Bond) and McCullough (Robert Horton).

The depiction of life in the Indian camp is done with a rare sensitivity for a show of this type. We see the details of everyday life in the camp and follow the growing affection that Horse and Bright Star feel for each other. Their scenes together are quite tender. It's a side of Ralph Meeker, a tough guy actor in such films as THE NAKED SPUR and KISS ME DEADLY, that I've never seen before. In fact, Meeker had played the bad guy in the similarly-themed RUN OF THE ARROW just a year earlier, in which Rod Steiger played an Irish Confederate soldier who becomes a member of the Sioux after fleeing from the east. Meeker gives a modulated, low-key performance here and I believe he was deliberately directed that way to preserve the elegiac tone of the short story and keep the show from veering into melodrama. If I have any complaint about the episode, it's the decision to have Ward Bond narrate the flashback sequences rather than Meeker. I understand that Bond was the star of the show and may have felt a bit prickly at ceding the stage to Meeker, but I think the overall effect would have been even more profound with Meeker narrating.

Also, only one of the Indian speaking parts is played by an actual Native American, Anthony Numkena as Little Hunter. Michael Pate and Joan Taylor, who play Yellow Robe and Bright Star, had each played numerous Indian roles before this, so their casting evidently made sense at the time. They're both very good in their roles. Celia Lovsky, an Austrian-born actress who'd played many different ethnic roles during her long career in Hollywood, is also very good as the Old Mother who comes to accept Horse as her son during his stay with the Crow. Her character is the most memorable of the Indians in the original short story, as I recall. The Indians in this episode are all strongly-etched individuals and human beings and not just character types. Horse's growing relationships with them are charted with care and feeling. Surely, that counts for something.

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