Cast & Crew
In 1877, when Josh Tanner, a surveyor on his way to Fort Laramie, takes a short cut through Cheyenne territory, he finds a corpse pierced by an Indian arrow. While packing the body onto his horse under the watchful eyes of Little Dog, a Cheyenne chief's son, and his group of braves, Josh unwittingly wins a game of chance that Little Dog plays with him from afar, and his life is spared. When Josh arrives at Fort Laramie with the body, an angry Colonel Lindsay announces that the men will suffer the same fate if they persist in violating the peace treaty with the Cheyennes by crossing into their territory to pan for gold. Later, during a ceremony in which the colonel oversees the signing of a treaty by the Sioux, Blackfoot and Arapaho tribes, which will require them to move onto reservations, the Cheyenne, who refuse to capitulate, attack. The colonel, a pacifist, will not allow the white men to retaliate. Soon after, Josh and Ann Magruder, daughter of the rough saloon owner from whom Josh rents a room, ride into the country, where they are accosted by Little Dog and his warrior band. Little Dog taunts Josh, but Josh handles the Indians well, understanding the Cheyenne warrior's codes of dignity and respect. Josh eventually wins over Little Dog by giving him his hair comb as a gift, and the warriors allow Josh and Ann, who also has deep sympathy for the Indians, to go on their way. Back at the fort, Ann's father, in a drunken fit, tells Josh to leave his daughter alone, implying that she was raped as a young girl and is now "damaged goods." The next day, upon an invitation from Little Dog and his sister, Appearing Day, Josh goes to the Cheyenne village and watches the Indian warriors' war-games. Josh gives Bowie knives to Little Dog and the brave's closest friend, American Horse, and the two practice at throwing them at a target of a white man. Later, as Josh washes his face in the river, Appearing Day arrives, and when he gives her his bar of soap, she asks for a kiss. Little Dog and American Horse later steal a horse from the Crow tribe, whom they denigrate as a lesser creed, and give it to Josh as a gift. Josh finally meets Little Dog's father, Chief Broken Hand, who asks that Josh sit at a council meeting, during which Broken Hand plans to announce his decision to accept the peace treaty and leave the Cheyenne territory for a reservation in the South. After Little Dog becomes enraged at his father's decision, Broken Hand asks Josh to try to convince his son to give up the fight. In the medicine man's lodge, Josh urges Little Dog to show as much wisdom as he has courage. Still angry and humiliated, Little Dog declares that he will go alone to the hills to consult the spirits. Later, American Horse, having witnessed Josh kissing Appearing Day, hits the girl, claiming that she belongs to him. He then rides to the fort and attacks Josh for taking Appearing Day away from him. A guard is killed in the ensuing scuffle, and American Horse is imprisoned. Appearing Day, having interpreted Josh's words of sympathy as a promise of love, shows up in his bed, unclothed. He tells her that she must go back, but then admits that he loves her and promises to talk to her father. When Little Dog sneaks into Fort Laramie to release American Horse, he kills a guard. The colonel and a group of Cavalry soldiers go to see Broken Hand, hoping that he will allow them to arrest Little Dog and American Day. Josh, who has accompanied them, wants to discuss Appearing Day with Broken Hand, but the patriarch refuses. Broken Hand does agree to sign the peace treaty, and as he does so, a brave arrives and throws a knife festooned with a white feather at the colonel's feet, indicating a challenge from Little Dog. Although Little Dog and American Horse are working alone, the colonel calls out the entire Cavalry. The inhabitants of the Cheyenne village and the Cavalry arrive at the appointed place, and the two warriors taunt the officers. Josh, realizing that he must make one of the braves shoot first, provokes American Horse by calling him a woman, and when the warrior breaks down and shoots, violating the terms of the agreement, he is in turn shot down by Broken Hand. Josh tries to convince Little Dog to save his own life, but Little Dog prefers to fight Josh to the death like a brave warrior. Appearing Day rides up and begs Little Dog to be faithful to his white friend, who has always treated him well. Little Dog shakes Josh's hand and then rushes at the troops, who shoot him dead. Josh goes to Little Dog's dead body and lovingly arranges him in a dignifed pose. After the colonel declares that they have seen the last of the Indian wars, Josh announces that he will wed Appearing Day. The couple are married in a Methodist church, and Broken Hand lives long enough to see his grandson enter the Military Academy at West Point.
Noah Beery [jr.]
Iron Eyes Cody
Robert L. Jacks
Joseph I. Kane
Jack [martin] Smith
The film's working title was The Challenge. Opening credits begin with an offscreen narrator who states: "What you will see actually happened; the only difference being the Indian's language...." Although an accompanying onscreen written statement establishes the story's period as 1877, the events depicted in the film appear to be based on the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty signing, which stipulated that the Southern Cheyennes and the Arapahos would be sent to a combined reservation. The treaty negotiations were organized by a peace commission that was formed after a series of bloody and unsuccessful military campaigns.
A June 1954 Los Angeles Examiner item announced that Terry Moore, Dale Robertson and Rita Moreno would star in the picture along with Robert Wagner. According to a July 2, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Robertson was suspended by Twentieth Century-Fox for refusing the role, for which he would have been loaned to Panoramic. Virginia Leith was borrowed from Fox for the production.
The film was shot on location in Durango, Mexico, according to Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items. According to a August 19, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, the Mexican government intended to make the massive fort set constructed for the film into a museum after production was completed. An February 11, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the picture would have a "youth premiere" for children, at which technical advisor Iron Eyes Cody would appear in "full regalia."
The Variety review commented that in White Feather "seldom is the Redskin depicted as the villain. Rather the plot makes the white man the aggressor." Similarly, the Hollywood Reporter review stated that "if [the public] is really interested in what the Indians of the frontier were like, [the film] should have great success, for it is one of the most massive and accurate screen spectacles ever put on the screen." In a Hollywood Citizen-News interview, director Robert Webb stated that he "tried to show the Indian[s] in a different light" by making them intelligent and worthy.
Released in United States Winter February 1955
Released in United States Winter February 1955