skip navigation
Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow(1950)


TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (0)

DVDs from TCM Shop

Broken Arrow A former soldier sets out to... MORE > $11.21 Regularly $14.98 Buy Now blu-ray


powered by AFI

teaser Broken Arrow (1950)

James Stewart struck western gold in 1950, scoring big in Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 and also this Technicolor thriller for the socially conscious Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Broken Arrow became known as the western in which Hollywood atoned for its use of Native Americans as savage villains. In truth there was never a lack of westerns sympathetic to the Indians, but producer Julian Blaustein (Mr. 880, The Day the Earth Stood Still) had a knack for making pacifist movies that didn't provoke a political backlash. James Stewart's prospector Tom befriends the Apache leader Cochise (Jeff Chandler) and learns the tribal customs and language. Even after almost being lynched, he works for peace in the Arizona territory. Racist whites and angry Apache warriors do not deter Tom from marrying the Indian maiden Sonseeahray (Debra Paget). Credited writer Michael Blankfort served as a front for the actual screenwriter Albert Maltz, who had just finished serving jail time as one of the Hollywood Ten. Maltz suggests a respectful standoff between the races, with Cochise telling Tom, "Someday you will kill me or I will kill you but we will not spit on each other." The progressive attitudes meant nothing to the Production Code office, which did not allow the portrayal of interracial marriages. Instead of being used to appease a volcano god, as did the South Seas maiden in King Vidor's Bird of Paradise (1932), Sonseeahray becomes a sacrifice to seal a tenuous frontier peace. Albert Maltz wouldn't be credited on a movie for another twenty years, while the celebrated actor Will Geer, here playing an Indian-hating rancher, would spend eleven years on the blacklist. The show advanced the careers of Jeff Chandler and 16 year-old Debra Paget. She got to jump into a volcano after all, when Fox rushed both of them into a remake of Bird of Paradise (1951). James Stewart averaged one western a year for the next decade. His Two Rode Together (1961) for John Ford took a contrastingly cynical stance, insisting that peace between whites and Native Americans was impossible.

by Glenn Erickson

back to top