Little Big Horn


1h 26m 1951

Film Details

Release Date
Jun 18, 1951
Premiere Information
San Francisco premiere: 8 Jun 51
Production Company
Lippert Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Lippert Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,730ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In Jun 1876, at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Montana Territory, Celie Donlin, the neglected wife of Capt. Phillip Donlin of the U.S. Cavalry, tries to convince her lover, Lt. John Haywood, to resign his commission and leave the Army with her. Unknown to them, Phil has returned early from his patrol and has heard everything. The unrepentant Celie tells Phil that she no longer loves him and the heartbroken captain leaves the next morning on another patrol. After three weeks, Phil tells his exhausted men that they must keep up their grueling pace in order to arrive at Camp Yellowstone and warn Gen. George Armstrong Custer of the large buildup of Sioux Indians before he leads the Seventh Cavalry to the Little Big Horn River. While resting at a water hole, Phil's unit is joined by John and his unit, who have been sent to recall Phil to Fort Lincoln. Told that Custer has already left for Little Big Horn, Phil decides to disregard his orders and attempt to warn the general. John argues that such a mission would be suicide and refuses to subject his men to such a hazard, so Phil lets John's detail return to the fort, but orders the lieutenant to join his patrol as second-in-command. With only three days to cover two hundred and fifty miles, the patrol goes on a forced march through hostile Indian territory. After one of the over-anxious soldiers fires on a Sioux lookout as the unit travels through a narrow ravine, John is sent up the ridge to kill the brave in hand-to-hand combat. He does so, only to have his own life saved by Quince, the unit scout, who kills a second Indian. Afterwards, John gives Phil a picture of Celie, stating that it is the only thing he has of her. John does not tell Phil, however, that he had earlier ended his relationship with Celie, knowing that she still loves her husband. Worried about his pregnant wife, Pvt. Arndst Hofstetter convinces young Pvt. Tim Harvey to desert the unit and return to the fort with him, but the two are soon ambushed by a group of Sioux. Hofstetter is saved from certain death by John, though Tim falls prey to a Sioux arrow. With their presence now known, the patrol attempts to quicken their pace. While riding point, Cpl. Arika, a Crow Indian, and Pvt. Doan Moylan, a thief, discover Quince nailed to a stake. Arika is killed attempting to rescue the scout, who dies soon after. While John continues to worry about the men in their dwindling patrol, Phil reminds him that they are only a few men, trying to save the lives of hundreds. With John missing while on point, the enlisted men threaten to mutiny against Phil, only to have the lieutenant return and report that the Sioux have gathered in wait for Custer. Seeing the threat to his authority, Phil challenges John to a fistfight, which ends in a draw. The patrol then heads out, only to discover an ambushed wagon train. The patrol is soon attacked by the Sioux, and Phil is the first to fall. Learning that Custer has yet to arrive at Little Big Horn, the dying commander puts John in charge. He then leads the remnants of the patrol on a direct assault, but badly outnumbered, no one survives.

Film Details

Release Date
Jun 18, 1951
Premiere Information
San Francisco premiere: 8 Jun 51
Production Company
Lippert Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Lippert Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,730ft (9 reels)

Quotes

Why does anyone have to ride point?
- Moylan
The Army works on the principle that it's better to sacrifice a few to many. It's hard to be one of those "few."
- Haywood
None of us are fit to ride 50 miles, let alone 250. But we're gonna do it. And we don't have time to go around obstacles. We'll go straight through them, no matter what or who they are.
- Capt. Donlon

Trivia

Notes

The film begins with the following written foreward: "This is a story based upon a strange and little known incident in America's history. From such incidents has risen the greatest fighting force in the world today-The United States Army-to which this picture is respectfully dedicated." The film ends with the following written statement: "Months after Custer made his stand-and less than six miles from the actual spot-nine graves were found. Although marked unknown, they are generally believed to be the graves of the patrol commanded by Capt. Philip Donlin and Lt. John Haywood, whose real names were: Capt. Frederic K. Giddleren and Lt. Charles Larin, United States Cavalry." For more information about Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn, please see the entry for They Died With Their Boots On in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
       A Daily Variety news item states that Lippert Productions purchased an original screenplay entitled Little Big Horn from Sydney Byrd in January 1950, but it has not been determined if any materials from that work were used in the production of this film. According to Hollywood Reporter, Joanne Dru, then the wife of John Ireland, was tested for the starring female role in the film, which was played by Marie Windsor. News items also state that writer Harold Shumate, credited with the film's story, was originally slated to direct the film. Instead, screenwriter Charles Marquis Warren made his directing debut. A 19 October 50 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Tom Hubbard to the cast, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. In a letter found in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Harold Mantell, Secretary of the National Film Committee for the Association of American Indian Affairs, Inc., complained about "the distortion and callousness evident in the story-line and advertising of Little Big Horn." Modern sources give the alternate title of The Fighting 7th.