“There can be no peace if there is no good will to try it.”
Civil War veteran Tom Jeffords (Jimmy Stewart) befriends Apache Chief Cochise (Jeff Chandler) and falls in love with a beautiful young Indian woman (Debra Paget). Can Stewart help broker broader peace between whites and the Apaches, starting with securing safe passage for mail carriers?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Cross-Cultural Romance
- Debra Paget Films
- Delmer Daves Films
- Jeff Chandler Films
- Jimmy Stewart Films
- Native Americans
Broken Arrow — scripted by blacklisted writer Albert Maltz, using Michael Blankfort as a front — is notable as one of the first Hollywood westerns to attempt to portray Native Americans in a more balanced and sympathetic light. Despite starring whites (Chandler and Paget) in the lead Apache roles, hundreds of Apaches played extras; much of the action was filmed reasonably close to where the historical events originally took place (in Arizona); and an opening voiceover by Stewart informs us that we will hear the Apaches speaking English simply for the sake of convenience (rather than using the alternative du jour of “broken English”). Indeed, Broken Arrow remains impressive as an early attempt to humanize Indians and show the appeal of their culture to whites like Stewart (at least in his choice of an Indian bride and willingness to live with the tribe). Meanwhile, the storyline is a fairly compelling one — can peace realistically be be brokered when so much ill-will and bloodshed have taken place? — and Ernest Palmer’s Technicolor cinematography is gorgeous.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jeff Chandler as Cochise
- Jimmy Stewart as Tom Jeffords
- Fine location shooting in Arizona
- A refreshingly nuanced (if inevitably still somewhat inaccurate) portrayal of Apache culture
- Ernest Palmer’s cinematography
Yes, as a compelling and unique western for its era.
- Good Show
- Historically Relevant