Broken Arrow (1950)

DELMER DAVES

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1950.  Twentieth Century Fox.  Screenplay by , based on the novel Blood Brother by . Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1950.  Golden Globe Awards 1950.

James Stewart is riding through barren plains, searching for precious metals when he comes across an Apache teenager who is badly injured. He heals the boy and is subsequently welcomed by his tribe, striking up a friendship with the famed warrior Cochise (Jeff Chandler) that he takes back to his own people in Tucson inspired to make peace with his own people. Stewart also falls in love with a beautiful young Apache girl (), but all of his good intentions and attempts at peace treaties can do little when there is racist greed on one side and fear of the ruthless invaders on the other. Made in the very early period of the self-critical western, casting doubt on the genre’s perpetuating the myths of heroic white men taming the savage, native-riddled land, this film makes neither good nor bad stereotypes of either group of people, instead relegating the frailties of human desires to good and bad and imbuing both races with both qualities. What hasn’t aged as well in the years since it was made is the casting, the awkward sight of white actors painted brown blanketing its good intentions more than just a little. Paget is a particularly difficult example of this (not to mention being twenty-six years younger than her romantic leading man), while Chandler at least manages to pull off a convincing bearing and stature in the role, compelling in performance even if not fully so in appearance.

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