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Tonka

Tonka(1958)

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Crying Boy

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NOTES

powered by AFI

The working titles of this film were A Horse Called Comanche and Comanche. The pressbook for the film stated that this was "the first full-scale movie attempt to tell the battle story [of Custer's Last Stand] from the Indian viewpoint." For more information about Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, please see the entry for They Died With Their Boots On in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. David Appel's novel was purchased by Walt Disney in October 1956, according to news items, and in April 1958, as production was being planned, it had still not been decided whether it would be a feature-length theatrical film, or a two-part feature for the ABC television series Disneyland.
       Fess Parker was originally scheduled for the role of "Captain Myles Keogh" and tested for the part on May 27, 1958, according to production reports at the Walt Disney Archives. Parker subsequently refused the second-billed role, however, and was placed on suspension, according to Variety. Studio publicity states that over five hundred Indians were used as warriors in Sitting Bull's army, and two hundred and fifty residents of Bend and Madras, OR, were used as cavalry soldiers. According to the San Francisco News, the role of Sitting Bull was originally to have been played by an Indian actor named Blue Eagle, but after receiving the news that he had won the role, Blue Eagle died from a heart attack.
       According to an article in the Rapid City Daily Journal included in a studio scrapbook, Disney chose Northern and Central Oregon locations for filming over locations scouted in South Dakota. Studio publicity adds the following information about Oregon location sites: the re-enactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn was shot at the Warm Springs Reservation; Custer's command headquarters was built near the town of Bend; and an Indian village was constructed at the Deschutes River. Shooting also took place at Madras, OR, according to production reports, and process shots were completed at M-G-M Studios.
       Reviews generally praised the film, and a few applauded the studio for its concern with historical accuracy. The film was criticized, however, for evading issues concerning the causes of the Little Big Horn conflict and for romanticizing the Sioux. However, Christian Science Monitor criticized the film for making "no attempt to explore the rights and wrongs of the situation between the redskins and whites in the 1870's." New York Times noted that the film "rarely suggests the basic causes of Indian-white friction." The film was telecast as Comanche in two parts, on 18 February and February 25, 1962, on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. In 1977, the film was retitled A Horse Called Comanche, according to Los Angeles Times.