Cast & Crew
In 1883 U. S. Cavalry Lieut. Matt Hazard arrives at Fort Delivery on the Mexican border in Arizona to begin a new assignment and is welcomed by Kitty Mainwaring, wife of the acting commanding officer. The next day Hazard and his group are ambushed by Indians when he takes some men out to cut wood, and Hazard later rescues Kitty in a runaway wagon after her party is attacked and her driver and escort killed. A violent storm forces the two to spend the night in a cave. Back at the fort the new commanding officer, General Quait, arrives and launches a full-scale attack against the Indians. He fails to capture Indian Chief War Eagle and sends Hazard into Mexico to try to persuade War Eagle to surrender peacefully. The chief saves Hazard's life at one point and eventually agrees to peace when Hazard promises them an Arizona reservation. On their way back to Arizona, however, the Indians are met by Major Miller, who orders them to Florida. Hazard and Quait go to Washington; Hazard refuses a medal offered him; and he and Quait resign because their commitments to the Indians have not been honored. The government capitulates, and the Indians get their Arizona reservation. Quait and Hazard return to Fort Delivery, and Hazard marries Kitty, whose husband has been killed.
Richard X. Slattery
William L. Kuehl
Capt. J. S. Peters
Jean Burt Reilly
Francis E. Stahl
William H. Wright
A Distant Trumpet
Walsh's previous film had been Marines, Let's Go (1961), but in the intervening period he had been slated to direct PT 109 (1963), a portrayal of Pres. John F. Kennedy's wartime naval service. Jack L. Warner had reluctantly fired Walsh off that film (before shooting started) due to pressure from Washington. But Walsh still owed Warner Brothers one movie, and Warner, an old friend (Walsh had directed 25 pictures for the studio) soon set him up with A Distant Trumpet, a cavalry western that Laurence Harvey had previously been attached to star in and direct.
The film was based on a 1960 historical novel by Paul Horgan, an acclaimed historian of the American southwest who had already won a Pulitzer Prize for history and would later win another. Adapting the novel into a screenplay was John Twist, who had worked with Walsh on six earlier films including the superb western Colorado Territory (1949). When Walsh read the script, he immediately pictured John Wayne in the lead role, but the studio had other plans, forcing him to use a trio of young actors that would presumably pull in a younger audience: Troy Donahue, Suzanne Pleshette, and Diane McBain, all in their early 20s.
Despite having to work with a cast that he did not want, Walsh sailed through production fairly smoothly, filming in the summer of 1963 on stunning locations in Flagstaff, Ariz., and Gallup, New Mexico, followed by three weeks of studio work. Donahue plays a cavalry lieutenant sent to an Arizona fort in order to make peace with attacking Indians. Once there, he and Pleshette proceed to fall in love despite the fact that she is married and he is engaged. During the shoot, Donahue was a party animal, often showing up for work on just 2-3 hours of sleep. As a production memo said, "He does sleep a good bit of the time in the dressing room truck. His lines show it."
Perhaps Donahue was more interested in his real-life romance with Suzanne Pleshette. The pair, who had already worked together in the hit film Rome Adventure (1962), would marry before A Distant Trumpet was released. The marriage would last just eight months.
While on location, Walsh brushed up on his language skills, speaking to the Navajo actors (hired to play Apaches) in their own language whenever possible. Production notes state that the company of cavalrymen was played by local Gallup horsemen and even students from the University of New Mexico. Cinematographer William Clothier loved his time on this film, later recalling Walsh as "a wonderful man to work with. He was like Wellman, or like Ford. He knew exactly what he wanted and that's what he wanted, and it's simple with people like that."
Several news articles of the day highlighted the fact that the production used small walkie-talkies to enable Walsh to direct hundreds of actors on horseback from far away -- something that is now common on every film set.
But while the film was a good experience for Walsh, Clothier, and indeed Donahue and Pleshette, it was not so for critics, who disliked the film, or for audiences, who stayed away. "A far cry from the grand old westerns of yesterday," said Time magazine, adding that "[it] plays down the drama of the great Southwest, [and] plays up three bright young faces from Beverly Hills... Donahue is an animated Ken doll with golden hair, caught between the Barbie and Midge dolls impersonated by Suzanne Pleshette and Diane McBain." The New York Times deemed it "a deadly bore" and wondered if Walsh, at 76, was losing his customary knack for pacing. Other critics, however, praised the action scenes as exciting and staged with gusto, declaring them the main attraction in the film overall. For his part, speaking later to Patrick McGilligan, Walsh said he was disappointed by the film, and especially with the cast: "Those people didn't belong in it."
Walsh biographer Marilyn Moss has written: "The picture Walsh made his last also marked, ironically, the changing map of movie faces, even in the background. Many veteran cowboys worked on A Distant Trumpet for the last time as a group." Hollywood had certainly changed drastically by 1964. The studio system was basically gone, with artists now freelancing around town, the look of films had changed, and the distinctive styles of the different studios were no more.
After A Distant Trumpet, there was talk of Walsh directing another western with Donahue -- Monte Walsh, based on an acclaimed recent novel -- but the middling box office of Trumpet put an end to that. (Monte Walsh was eventually made in 1970 with Lee Marvin and again in 2003, for television, with Tom Selleck.)
In the years that followed, Raoul Walsh received offers to make films in France, but, he said, "my lovely wife talked me out of it." He was also asked by Japanese producers to film "a big spectacle up in Mongolia" with thousands of camels, horses and soldiers, "but a guy my age [near 80] fooling around up near Upper Mongolia, with the Chinese on one side and the Russians on the other, you know, I would have landed in the clink. Bound to." There were other film offers, too, but Walsh instead turned to writing some western novels and a memoir, and he settled down to enjoy career retrospectives and film festival honors until his death in 1980, at age 93.
By Jeremy Arnold
Patrick McGilligan, Film Crazy: Interviews With Hollywood Legends
Marilyn Ann Moss, Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director
A Distant Trumpet
Location scenes filmed in New Mexico and Arizona.
Released in United States 1964
Raoul Walsh's last film.
Released in United States 1964