CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1960)

   Richard Widmark, John Ford (director)
   Cheyenne Autumnwas John Ford’s last Western, released just as spaghetti Westerns were poised to make significant changes in cinema Westerns. Critics have often noticed a contrast between Ford’s sympathetic portrayal of Native Americanshere compared to his stereotypical treatment in earlier Westerns. Cheyenne Autumn, based on a story by Mari Sandoz, depicts a small Cheyenne band’s desperate attempt to escape reservation life in Indian territory and return to their ancestral home 1,500 miles to the north. They flee their barren existence on the reservation, which has been compromised by corrupt government mismanagement, and then find themselves pursued by the U.S. cavalry. Despite Ford’s sympathy for the United States’ historical treatment of Native Americans, he has often been criticized for casting white or Hispanic actors in the leading Native American roles, leaving genuine Native Americans in the background as extras. Victor Jory, ubiquitous bad man in dozens of old Westerns, played the old Cheyenne chief who dies early on. Two other chiefs are played by Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland. The leading squaw is played by Dolores del Rio. Also, Sal Mineo played the hot-headed young warrior.
   Richard Widmark played Captain Thomas Archer, who is in charge of the pursuit and shows sympathy for his foe and reluctance to accomplish his task. Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy played Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, respectively, involved in a poker game in Dodge City in an isolated scene inserted purely for comic effect.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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