Thursday, 20 November 2014

Review - Broken Arrow (1950 - Dir. Delmer Daves)

I'm not that keen on Westerns. Spaghetti Westerns, yes, but not your usual run of the mill Western. (Perhaps that's why this is my first review of one.) So when Broken Arrow came up as James Stewart's randomly selected entry for the FA Cup of Actors, I was skeptical and thought that maybe Jamel Debbouze was in with a chance of nicking this match.

James Stewart plays Tom Jeffords in his standard Mr Smith Goes to Washington style (and there's nothing wrong with that). In a twist on the average Cowboys and Indians film where the Indians are subjected to genocide by our heroes, Jeffords befriends his Native American chums on the basis that he's sick of all the scrapping, so he wants everyone to kiss and make up and generally get along with each other. Funnily enough, Cochise (Jeff Chandler), the leader of the Apaches, is suspicious of this outsider and his American buddies want to give him a good kicking for knocking about with untrustworthy savages. It doesn't help that he falls in love with Sonseeahray (Debra Paget).

Let's start off by getting rid of the obvious problem of the filmmakers using white actors made up to look like Native Americans. It was made in the unenlightened 1950s so we can forgive them this error. But let's face facts, we're better than that now: it would be completely offensive to peddle that kind of thing in current times, especially if you were a massive family film studio, like Disney perhaps.

The plot made for a welcome change and I found myself enjoying it despite my misgivings. The scenery is stunning on occasions and for once The Native Americans aren't portrayed as scalp pilfering psychos but as a mostly noble, honourable group of people. There are a few wrong 'uns but that's fair enough. The settlers meanwhile are generally big racists. 

James Stewart is a consistently bankable fellow and his performance here is no exception. Obviously I haven't seen all of his films but I'm betting that they're all eminently watchable. Here though, he is matched by Chandler, perfectly cast (apart from the skin colour issue) as a strong leader who is willing to negotiate a peace treaty. Paget meanwhile looks a tad young to be Stewart's love interest. In fact, she was born in 1933, so she's only seventeen at most. All a bit dodgy.

In the final analysis this just pips Jamel's entry sending our plucky underdog out of the competition and despite Broken Arrow never setting the world on fire it is still an above average film deserving an above average...

If you like this you could also try:
Vertigo, Rear Window.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. So anything that isn't a Spaghetti Western is run of the mill ? Do you feel the same way about the Westerns of John Ford, Anthony Mann, or Howard Hawks ?