7th Cavalry, directed by Joseph H. Lewis for Columbia Pictures, hit theaters midway between the release dates of the first two Boetticher films, Seven Men from Now (1956) and The Tall T (1957), but the film it actually most resembles is Boetticher's own earlier The Man from the Alamo (1953), a Universal production that starred Glenn Ford. In that picture, Ford is ostracized by townspeople for fleeing the battle of the Alamo and thus winding up as the only survivor. In 7th Cavalry, Scott plays an officer in George Armstrong Custer's outfit who is resented by all for having missed the Battle of the Little Big Horn; never mind that he claims it was Custer himself who sent him away on another task beforehand. The two films make for an interesting comparison, but Man from the Alamo relies more on visuals than on talk and ultimately is stronger because of it.
Randolph Scott is nonetheless very pleasing in 7th Cavalry. At this point in his career, he projected western solidness second only to John Wayne. He looks good in a cavalry uniform and is totally believable in the part, which has him branded a coward after returning to Fort Lincoln shortly after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, not knowing that Custer and the rest of the troop have been massacred. Scott had previously been ordered by Custer to leave and go pick up his fiancée, who also happens to be the daughter of the commanding colonel, who hates Scott. To prove himself, Scott leads a burial detail of miscreants and drunkards back to the Little Big Horn with the aim of burying the enlisted men and bringing back the bodies of the officers. But to the Sioux, the battleground is now holy land and the removal of any dead would be seen as a violation...
7th Cavalry was produced by Harry Joe Brown, who, in partnership with Scott, also produced most of the Boetticher films and many other westerns in the early 1950s. Brown was a well-respected class act who had been in the industry since the silent era, when he directed and produced scores of films. Starting in the mid-1940s, he turned exclusively to producing.
Director Joseph H. Lewis had demonstrated his excellence in films like Gun Crazy (1950), My Name Is Julia Ross (1945) and The Big Combo (1955). 7th Cavalry, however, he viewed as a routine assignment and not much more. As a result, it is professionally directed but lacks the stylish flair of his great movies. Lewis also directed Randolph Scott in A Lawless Street (1955).
Producer: Harry Joe Brown, Randolph Scott
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Screenplay: Peter Packer, Glendon Swarthout (story)
Cinematography: Ray Rennahan
Film Editing: Gene Havlick
Art Direction: George Brooks
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Cast: Randolph Scott (Capt. Tom Benson), Barbara Hale (Martha Kellogg), Jay C. Flippen (Sgt. Bates), Frank Faylen (Sgt. Kruger), Jeanette Nolan (Charlotte Reynolds), Leo Gordon (Vogel).
by Jeremy Arnold