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Arrow in the Dust

Arrow in the Dust(1954)

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teaser Arrow in the Dust (1954)

Allied Artists splurged on a star name for this ingeniously plotted pioneer western that seemingly comments on domestic politics. U.S. Cavalry deserter Bart (Sterling Hayden) atones for his dishonor by reluctantly taking charge of a Laramie-bound wagon train threatened by marauding Apache Indians. To do so, Bart assumes the identity of a fallen Major, a deception tentatively accepted by the train's scout Crowshaw (Tom Tully). Bart, Crowshaw and Lt. King (Keith Larsen) see the settlers safely through wave after wave of Indian attacks. Also intuiting Bart's deception is the beautiful pioneer lass Christella (Coleen Gray, Hayden's costar in the later Kubrick classic The Killing). Romantically interested, she prefers to investigate his troubled motivations rather than turn him in. Providing more comment on the coward-hero is the song 'The Weary Stranger', sung at intervals by an Army private (country western star Jimmy Wakely). The Apaches' reason for attacking is a surprise for all: the train's wealthy civilian leader is secretly transporting a cache of weapons for sale to an enemy Indian tribe. Veteran western director Lesley Selander was known for speed and efficiency, qualities necessary for Allied Artists' first production in Technicolor. Critics complimented the contribution of veteran actor Tom Tully, while noting the almost wall-to-wall Indian battles. At this time Sterling Hayden was reconsidering his friendly testimony to HUAC, a personal decision that he would publicly reproach himself for a few years later. When the troubled Bart considers deserting the settlers of the wagon train, he perhaps remembers the last words of the dying Major: "There must still be some good in you."

By Glenn Erickson

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