The Charge at Feather River
Cast & Crew
When Cheyenne Indians threaten to disrupt construction of a railroad through Colorado territory they believe is theirs, Lt. Col. Kilrain of the U.S. Cavalry summons Miles Archer, a Civil War veteran and an expert on the region, to Fort Bellows to organize a special protective guard troop. Archer arrives at the fort only to discover that in addition to the troop, he is also expected to join Sgt. Baker in the rescue of two white women abducted by the Cheyenne five years earlier. Archer initially rejects Kilrain's request, but when he learns that the women, Anne and Jennie McKeever, are the sisters of Johnny McKeever, an old pal of his, he changes his mind. A fighting regiment is then assembled from a group of men who have committed minor offenses at the fort. Among the recruits are Cullen, an inventor; Poinsett, a Southern aristocrat; Ryan, a philanderer; and Grover Johnson, an artist from the East. Before the regiment leaves the fort, a fistfight erupts between Ryan and Baker, who becomes enraged when he finds his wife kissing Ryan. Heading into Cheyenne territory, Archer and his men come across an ailing old Arapaho man, who, before dying, throws his ax at one of the soldiers, hitting him squarely in the back. The men continue on, undaunted, and eventually find the Indian village at which Anne and Jennie are located. It is only after the two sisters are safely brought out of the Indian village that Archer and the others discover that Jennie has become a Cheyenne, and that she is engaged to marry Chief Thunder Hawk. While Anne willingly agrees to return to Fort Bellows, Jennie must be gagged and taken by force. En route to the fort, Archer loses nearly half of his party to Cheyenne attacks and, at one point, discovers that Jennie is secretly signaling the Indians, giving them their exact location. The party finally reaches Fort Bellows only to discover that the fort has been ransacked and that all but one of the men there, a man named Griffin, have been massacred. Griffin tells Archer that the women, including Archer's wife, were sent to Fort Darby. When Archer learns that Fort Darby is the nearest place to get food and water, he decides to lead his party on a four-day journey there. Once again, Archer's party comes under Cheyenne attack and is forced to take shelter on a river island, where a romance between Archer and Anne flourishes. Realizing the danger they are in, Archer sends Baker and Ryan ahead to Fort Darby to get reinforcements. Although Ryan is killed in an Indian ambush, Baker manages to get through to the fort. Back at the river island, the Indian attacks grow in ferocity and result in a full-scale battle. Shortly after Chief Thunder Hawk is killed, reinforcements from Fort Darby arrive, and with their help, the Indians are driven off. Jennie's body, shot up with arrows, is later found next to Chief Thunder Hawk's. With his mission accomplished, Archer professes his love for Anne and asks her to marry him.
William Robey Cooper
Julian Gunzburg M.d.
M. L. Gunzburg
Charles B. Lang
Norman C. Mcclay
Lyle B. Reifsnider
James R. Webb
L. C. Williams
Began shooting late February 1953.
A scream from the character Pvt. Wilhelm has since been reused as a stock effect in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies, as well as countless other films.
The working title of this film was The Burning Arrow. According to Variety, Charge at Feather River had its premiere at the Plaza Theatre in Vernon, TX, and was the first picture to be shown there. The newly constructed theater was the first in the country built especially for 3-D, wide-screen and stereophonic sound films. According to the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the river island battle depicted in the film was based on the historic Battle of Beeckers Island, which took place in 1869. Although Larry Chance is credited in the role of "Chief Thunder Hawk" in February 1953 studio cast lists, Fred Carson is credited with the part in an August 1953 CBCS list. A February 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Paul Richards to the cast, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
In 1972, according to a Daily Variety news item, Milton L. Gunzburg filed suit against Warner Bros. and others seeking profits from this and another film, House of Wax, which he claimed were contractually due to him and the Natural Vision Corp. Gunzburg also sought $150,000 in damages and an injuction against further showings of the films. The outcome of the suit is not known. Modern sources note that The Charge of Feather River was the highest grossing western of 1953.