Smoke Signal


1h 28m 1955

Brief Synopsis

Capt. Harper's cavalry patrol returns to the fort to find it besieged by Ute Indians. The apparent cause is the recapture of Army traitor Brett Halliday, who deserted to the Utes in a previous war; but Brett has a different story. With capture imminent, the only chance for the surviving men (and one woman) is to boat down a wild, uncharted river, where Harper and Halliday must pull together, like it or not.

Film Details

Release Date
Feb 1955
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA; Colorado River,United States; Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States; Moab, Utah, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.00 : 1
Film Length
7,897ft

Synopsis

In the 1850s, upon arriving at a small U.S. Cavalry outpost on the banks of the Colorado River, Captain Harper finds most of the fort's soldiers dead after a series of attacks by Ute Indians. Among the nine survivors are Laura Evans, the daughter of the dead commander, and her suitor, the arrogant Lieutenant Wayne Ford, who has temporarily taken charge of the remaining soldiers. The source of the trouble with the Ute tribe is assumed to be the fort's prisoner, Captain Brett Halliday, who, a few years previously, had defected to the Ute and is now awaiting a court-martial on charges of treason and murder. Halliday defends himself, explaining that when captured by the Army, he was escaping the Ute in order to reach an Apache chief with the power to stop the Ute's progressively violent attacks against the whites. However, no one believes Halliday's story, and Harper, whose brother was killed in a skirmish with the Ute while Halliday was aligned with the tribe, vows to bring the former Army captain to justice. When it becomes obvious that they can no longer remain in the fort, the soldiers, along with Laura, Halliday and Garode, a fur trader, build makeshift boats and take the only escape route possible, the treacherous and uncharted Colorado River. Ute warriors follow the two boats from the cliffs of the canyon and manage to kill a number of men, while others are nearly lost in the rapids. Halliday succeeds in a daring rescue of the helpless Private Livingston, who had earlier been blinded in a Ute attack, leading Sergeant Miles, whose life was once saved by Halliday, to defend his former captain to Harper. However, Harper and Ford, who is jealous of Laura's apparent interest in Halliday, continue to insist he is a traitor and cannot be trusted. After one of the boats breaks apart in the rapids and Halliday attempts more selfless rescues, Halliday finds himself briefly alone with Laura, who wants to know the truth behind his defection from the Army. Halliday reluctantly reveals that Laura's father, Commander Evans, was a brutal and intolerant man who treated the Ute Indians with great cruelty and injustice. Halliday was unwilling to carry out Evans' orders and defected to the Ute in the hope that he could protect them while he worked for a peaceful end to Evans' campaign of terror. Later, the Ute chief became as intolerant and warmongering as Evans, and Halliday tried to reach the Apaches for assistance in ending the violence. Although she must now face the truth about her father, Laura believes Halliday and falls in love with him. After Laura rebuffs Ford's advances, Ford angrily claims that Halliday is a "squawman" with a Ute wife awaiting him, but later Halliday explains to Laura that his wife was killed in the same battle in which Harper's brother died. An increasingly bitter Ford attempts to kill Halliday, but stumbles over a cliff and falls to his death. Finally, the small and exhausted band of survivors near the safety of a U.S. fort and spy a band of peaceful Apaches on the shore. The two remaining soldiers and Garode want Harper to release Halliday so that he can carry out his plan to attain peace and clear his name. However, Harper, an honorable man who cannot shirk his military duty, insists that he must deliver Halliday to the court. Nevertheless, Harper has come to trust and respect Halliday, so he subtly encourages him to make an escape, after which the soldiers dutifully shoot in Halliday's direction, purposefully missing him. As they watch Halliday swim to shore, Harper assures the grateful Laura that the man she has come to love will return to prove his innocence.

Film Details

Release Date
Feb 1955
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA; Colorado River,United States; Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States; Moab, Utah, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.00 : 1
Film Length
7,897ft

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This film opens with a title card stating that it was shot in the "Grand Canyon of the Colorado, known as one of the most dangerous rivers in the world." According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, additional location shooting was done near Moab, UT. Hollywood Reporter and Variety news items dated April 7, 1953 reported that Richard Alan Simmons was hired to write the film's screenplay based on an original story by Harold Jack Bloom; however, neither of these writers are credited onscreen and their participation in the finished film has not been confirmed.
       On May 4, 1954, Daily Variety reported that the producers had pushed back the start of production in the hopes of getting Charlton Heston for the role of "Brett Halliday." According to studio press materials, over 75 Navajo Indians were hired to portray Utes in the film. In a modern interview, producer Howard Christie dubbed Smoke Signal "the first seagoing Western in history" and stated that the film was shot on stretches of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers located between Mexican Hat, UT and Marble Canyon, AZ. A modern source adds John Day to the cast.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring March 1955

Released in United States Spring March 1955