Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964) Epic/Western. Cast: Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, James Stewart, and Edward G. Robinson. The film was the last western to be directed by John Ford, who proclaimed it an elegy. Much of the film was shot in Monument Valley Tribal Park on the Arizona-Utah border, where Ford had filmed scenes for many of his films, Stagecoach and The Searchers. The tribal leaders were played by Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland , Dolores del Río and Sal Mineo, Ford hired members of the Navajo tribe for extras in this film.
This beautiful film begins with the Cheyenne Indians in 1970 being moved from their Wyoming home to a Oklahoma reservation. After waiting for a year for Federal aid , the tribe is losing the battle to survive and are dying off from disease and starvation. Wanting to save what is left of their tribe they decide to make a 1,500-mile journey to their Yellowstone hunting grounds. Traveling with them is their friend Deborah Wright, a Quaker schoolteacher. Hot on their trail is a cavalry troop headed by Captain Thomas Archer, Deborah's fiancee, who hopes to end what they believe is an uprising without bloodshed. Cheyenne brave Red Shirt, starts trouble in which several U. S. soldiers are killed. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are pressured into organizing a war party. Sympathetic Earp, purposely leads his posse in the wrong direction. With winter coming on, the Cheyennes split into two groups. Half continue on their long journey and half surrender to the heartless Captain Wessels, at Fort Robinson. Will the Indians survive this historic ordeal.
Films similar to Cheyenne Autumn, try to show that Geronimo, Sitting Bull and others were not criminals, they were only defending the land where they were born and raised.
Ford added the segment with Stewart in place of an intermission. Ford didn't want people leaving the auditorium to go the bathroom or concessions counter, even though the film was long, and so he came up with the Wyatt Earp segment.
John Ford was urged to cast Richard Boone and Anthony Quinn as the Little Wolf and Dull Knife characters, as both had Native American blood. Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland, who were of Mexican descent, were cast instead.
Spencer Tracy was first cast as the secretary of interior Karl Shultz, but had a heart attack and was replaced by Edward G. Robinson.