Monday, 4 May 2009

Broken Arrow

: Buzzards. Jimmy Stewart plays ex military scout who, whilst panning for gold in Arizona, comes across an injured Apache and saves his life. Other Apache get to know and he becomes trusted friend to Apache chief Cochise (Jeff Chandler) and falls in love with a young Apache woman, Morningstar (Debra Paget). Other Apache involved in the Apache/U.S. war break away from Cochise and are led by Geronimo and try to destroy a fragile peace agreement. The murder of Morningstar by some baddy Whitemen ends in a stronger resolve from Cochise to keep the peace. The End.
Lesson learnt: Give peace a chance.

I love Jimmy Stoowart and he's great in this; very stoical, very serious and full of emotion. It's a good film to focus on war and how enemies treat each other. It doesn't pull any punches with scenes of torture of what basically are POWs. It's all a bit Dances with Wolves but without being six hours long and having to endure Kevin Costner. It even allows Jimmy to fall in love with an actual Apache rather than a white woman interloper. The only sticking point is the Natives speaking English but this is explained first thing by Jimmy. Jeff Chandler outshines Jimmy in many scenes with his holier than thou Apache wise man act and is fantastic. I don't think I've ever seen a straighter face or stronger brow.

There's also a proper focus on racism (and this in 1950) from both sides but particularly white racism. The white folk are even eager to string up Stewart due to his fraternizing with the Apache and making promises of peace to them. There are many scenes that highlight this with discussions between Cochise, Stewart and Gen. Howard (nice, kindly U.S. Army General) about how the Americans would promise to treat any Apache or Americans caught being naughty (with the rule of law etc.). The difference between the older, towny racist folk and the enlightened Stewart and Howard is made explicit time and time again.

Not sure how much of this is historically accurate but good to see in 1950 a film highlighting these issues.

Great bit of comedy with Stewart and Gen. Howard are eating in a teepee, Gen. Howard asks:

"This is delicious, what is it?"
""Pony". What sort of meat is "pony"?"
"Ah...a pony is a small horse"

Also, it's always interesting to see Jimmy Stewart in a romantic role, especially with the young (and brightly white toothed) Debra Paget. I can kind of see what he's got going on and it's heartwarming to see him and his wife on the way to their honeymoon tent to "listen to the brook all night". Ahem.

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