by Jack Nilan            EMail :

War Paint (1953)

Jack   C

IMDB    5.9

Tribe(s) : ?

Language : English



   The movie opens up with a male and female Indian shooting in out with two white men. After they have killed them the brave comes down and scalps them.

We then see a cavalry patrol led by Lt. Billings (Robert Stack) and Sgt. Clarke (Charles McGraw). They are to deliver a treaty to Chief Gray Cloud. The treaty should end all the fighting but it must get there within nine days.

Lt. Billings waits at a trading post for the treaty to come in, but it doesn't arrive. Gray Cloud's son Taslik (Keith Larsen) tells Billings he will lead him out in the desert to meet the party carrying the treaty. Billings doesn't know the part will never arrive, because Taslik has already killed them.

Taslik is wearing war paint, and some of the soldiers comment on it. Taslik's sister Wanima (Joan Taylor) has been secretly following the patrol. Billings sees that the water supply has been sabotaged, and they don't even have enough to make it back. Billings begins to suspect Taslik.

The troops begin to get uneasy. They don't have a lot of confidence in Billings. The horses are run off and the men blame Taslik. Taslik explains why he did it. He considers the treaty to be all lies. Taslik believes that his people can save themselves only if they band together to fight the white man. His father believes in the white man's honor. Billings decides to let Taslik continue on with them because he needs him to find water, but the troopers aren't happy.

When they discover that Taslik has been leading them in circles, trooper Tolson (Peter Graves) shoots and kills him. Wanima begins to poison the water supply, and more men die. Billings sends a man out ahead but Wanima shoots and kills him but she is wounded. Billings and the men then find her. When the troops find the dead trooper they now suspect Wanima. Billings threatens to burn her, and she tells them that she is Taslik's sister. Billings decides to keep her alive as proof that they want peace.

Wanima tells Billings that she doesn't believe the lies of the treaty. She also says she can never cleanse herself of what the soldiers did to her when she was at the white man's school. She says after the treaty is signed other white men will come and ignore it. She says :"Your great white father writes on a paper and says 'This is my word. I have sent my soldiers with the paper. Sign. It is as you wish.' But it is not the word of his people. Soon the other whites will come and spit on the paper when our people are weak. When your rifles are many and our babies go without milk. Soon we will be pushed in to a corner and our bones will whiten the grass and we will be nothing."

Wanima leads the men not to water but to a gold mine. There is a mutiny and the men shoot Billings in the arm, and then try to force Wanima to bring them to water. Wanima decides to bring them to water to save Billings. Some of the men, because of the gold and how they had mutinied, decide to kill the others. Billings and Sgt. Clarke are able to hold them off.

Billings and Wanima head off towards the village with the treaty and the movie ends.

Another 50's Western where the major male and female Indians are not played by Native Americans and the pretty Indian maiden falls for the cavalry officer. But at least the movie gave them the opportunity to present the Indians point of view. How treaties were ignored and they were always being told lies. In retrospect, Teslik and Wanama can certainly be looked at as heroes to their people.