by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

Jack   C-

IMDB    6.9

Tribe(s) : Cheyenne

Language : English/Cheyenne



   Cheyenne Autumn is based on a true story from 1878 in which more than three hundred Northern Cheyenne escape from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency at Fort Reno, Oklahoma, to return to their home in the Yellowstone area. They are led by Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf and guided by an elderly woman. In Nebraska the tribe split, as some because of hardships went in to a fort.

   The movie is said the be Ford's tribute to the American Indians but it was a shame that he cast Latins Del Rio, Mineo and Montalban as the Native Americans. Ford used his Navajos as the Indians in the background and the lead characters stand on in looking non-Native.

   There is also some awful dialogue in this movie by the Indians.
I must sleep with no wife. Saving all my strength for the fight against the soldiers. But your son tries to steal my youngest wife.
This cannot be. He is of my blood and my blood has never been bad.
He is of your blood but he is not you.
   There is a long scene with Jimmy Stewart as Wyatt Earp, Arthur Kennedy as Doc Holliday and John Carradine, but I don't know what it has to do with the movie. Ford often interrupted his films with scenes of comic relief, but some of them end up hurting his films more than helping, and this scene certainly didn't help a film that was already over long. With actors like Richard Widmark, Mike Mazurki, Harry Carey Jr., Edgar G, Robinson and Ben Johnson it could have been much better. Karl Malden was ineffectual in a bizarre role, Patrick Wayne sure wasn't the actor his father was and the lead Indian roles were all miscast.

   The movie tried to show how badly the Indians were treated, but it seemed to do it in a half hearted way. There were many Americans, like the Quaker teacher who seemed to be trying to do their best for the Cheyennes. Ford seemed to have ambivalent feelings about the Cheyenne's treatment. Overall, I found this movie to be very disappointing. It was supposed to be a tribute but overall I found it to be offensive and boring. Ford's cavalry trilogy from fifteen years earlier was much, much better.