by Jack Nilan            EMail :

White Feather (1955)

Jack   C

IMDB    6.2

Tribe(s) : Cheyenne / Crows

Language : English



   "This is the northern range company of Wyoming. The year is 1877. What you are about to see actually happened. The only difference will be is that when the Indians speak they will speak in our language so that you can understand them."

   In the genre listing on IMDB it lists History first and then Western. The movie starred Robert Wagner as Josh Tanner. Tanner rides to Fort Laramie, passing a dead prospector along the way. The settlers at the fort are anxious to go out into Comanche territory to hunt for gold. The troops are trying to keep the prospectors on their side of the river.
   Tanner gets out of trouble with a group of Comanche by combing his hair and then handing the chief his comb. They become friends after this. The Crow Indians are depicted as being beneath the Comanches' dignity to fight. Debra Paget who played Morning Star in Broken Arrow plays the beautiful Appearing Day here, but she really couldn't act in either role. She of course, falls for the Josh Tanner and enrages her intended spouse American Horse (played by Hugh O'Brian who made a much better Wyatt Earp than he did an Indian).
   When the chief makes a treaty with the Americans, American Horse and Little Dog (Jeffrey Hunter) don't go along. The chief said he will go out to watch his son, Little Dog die as the whole troop comes out to fight them.
   The writing, directing and acting were not very strong but the movie did try to present a positive view of Native Americans. Could have been better. The New York Times had a very positive review, perhaps a testament to how bad the portrayal of Indians were in most movies of the time.

NY Times Review (1955)

ONE facet of the passing of the Indian as the dominant figure of the Old West is given thoughtful, incisive and compassionate treatment in "White Feather," which began a stand at the Roxy yesterday. If the drama does not achieve the stature of a classic, it is, nevertheless, an intelligent and unvarnished handling of a subject generally concocted in stereotyped style. The United States Cavalry and Cheyennes of "White Feather" emerge as humans rather than the familiar, assembly line types indigenous to this movie genre.

The late Leonard Goldstein, whose last production should be a fine testament to his taste in subjects, courageously chose a story in which the Red Man is not a marauding scoundrel. He is, instead, a truly brave warrior but somehow a sad figure, resigned, at last, to the truth that the White Man is strong enough to oust him from his hunting grounds and that he must move to new lands.

The script turned in by Delmar Davis and Leo Townsend from a story by John Prebble, reportedly based on fact, is concerned with the signing of the final peace treaty in 1877 between the Indian tribes of the Wyoming Territory and governmental forces headed by the colonel commanding Fort Laramie. Woven into the main fabric of the plot is the romance of a young surveyor with a Cheyenne princess and his friendship with two young, unreconstructed braves.

"White Feather" is, importantly, a visual treat in color as director Robert Webb effectively employs his CinemaScope cameras to capture sweeping vistas of verdant plains and hills. Equally impressive, are graphic shots of bustling life in a Cheyenne village and the mounting tension of long lines of cavalry and watchful hordes of Indians moving along opposite sides of a river toward their final stand.

Robert Wagner makes a sturdy and convincing surveyor whose attitude toward the Red Man is realistic but sad. "They're heading for the promised land," he notes, "but how long can they live on promises." Eduard Franz is excellent as the wise Cheyenne chief who is majestic and commanding even in defeat. Jeffrey Hunter and Hugh O'Brien, as the braves who defiantly try to fight the cavalry themselves to save face, are, perhaps a mite too Anglo-Saxon but give the roles the fierceness and pride they require. Debra Paget is undoubtedly the most decorative Indian maiden ever seen West of the Mississippi, and John Lund contributes a solid portrayal as the dutiful colonel who finds his task ethically distasteful.

Although "White Feather" has a minimum of scalps to its credit, it is, nevertheless, an honest, often tense and colorful film footnote to the legends of the frontier West.