"Go ahead and hate me Hook, hate me because I saved myself from Apache torture .. because I gave their chief a son."
Trooper Hook is the predecessor of The Stalking Moon and Two Rode Together. In 1957 there was a lot of thought about prejudice, discrimination and miscegenation. Although there topics weren't discussed directly in the movies of the time, they were discussed in movies like this and The Searchers by moving the problem to an earlier time on the frontier. Women who were kidnapped by the Indians weren't seen as willing participants in miscegenation, but they were looked on as tainted nonetheless.
Joel McCrea plays Sgt. Hook who helps break up a raid by Apaches led Nanchez (Rodolfo Acosta). When they discover a captive white woman, Cora Sutliff (Barbara Stanwyck) among the prisoners, Hook is assigned to bring her and her half-Indian son, Quito, back to her husband's ranch in Arizona. The only problem is that the boy is the son of Nanchez.
Most of the rest of the movie plays out like Stagecoach as different passengers bring their views and prejudices on to the stagecoach with Hook, Cora and Quito. Some are accepting but others view Cora and Quito as something different.
When Nanchez escapes he comes after his son, but Hook won't give him up. He threatens to shoot the boy if Nanchez attacks. When they meet face to face they talk.
Nanchez : "With your people he would be like a bat, neither a bird nor a mouse. A thing of scorn."
Hook: "Let him go with his mother, and I pledge you he will have a chance to walk with pride and honor."
Nanchez: "You cannot speak for your people. You cannot stand against them. Your pledge is worthless."
Hook: "At least the boy will live."
Nanchez: "I do not choose such a life for my son."
Hook: "Then I have no more to say."
Nanchez: "Wait. Perhaps out talk has not fallen to the ground. I do not accept your pledge, but today you cast your shadow over me and I must let you go. Tomorrow's sand may make my shadow longer. You will have it in your thoughts day after day."
Nanchez was almost willing to have his son die rather then have him brought up in the white world where he knew his mixed race heritage would make him an outcast. Once again the accepting Indian culture is contrasted with the harsh, prejudicial view of the dominant white culture.
When they get back to Arizona, where they are to meet her husband, Cora gets all dressed up. When Fred Sutliff sees the boy he doesn't know what to think. He can't believe his wife was with an Indian. Fred is worried about what other people will think. Fred wishes Cora had left Quito with his "own kind."
What is the resolution to this problem in 1957 America? How will the ending of the film solve the situation?
Cora would like to try but Fred is not accepting of the boy.
Fred says: "He's not mine Cora. I kept remembering once we had a good life. And I was ready to forgive you about the Indian."
Cora: "Forgive me?"
Fred:" But you had to go and bring his .."
Cora: "Forgive me? Forgive me?"
Fred: "What kind of a man do you think I am?"
Cora and Quito get in to the wagon and are going to leave with Trooper Hook, but Fred is going to stop them at gunpoint. Just then Nanchez attacks. Nanchez shoots Fred but before he dies he shoots and kills Nanchez too. A coward's way out to end what could have been a much better movie.
As Cora, Quito and Hook ride off, we at least we see that there are some white people, like Hook, who are willing to accept people for who they are, and not what is in their blood. The last line has Hook telling Quito: "You got to learn to speak English."