Tonka (1958)

96-97 mins | Western | 25 December 1958

Director:

Lewis R. Foster

Producer:

James C. Pratt

Cinematographer:

Loyal Griggs

Production Designer:

Robert E. Smith

Production Company:

Walt Disney Productions
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were A Horse Called Comanche and Comanche . The pressbook for the film stated that this was "the first full-scale movie attempt to tell the battle story [of Custer's Last Stand] from the Indian viewpoint." For more information about Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, please see the entry for They Died With Their Boots On in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 . David Appel's novel was purchased by Walt Disney in Oct 1956, according to news items, and in Apr 1958, as production was being planned, it had still not been decided whether it would be a feature-length theatrical film, or a two-part feature for the ABC television series Disneyland .
       Fess Parker was originally scheduled for the role of "Captain Myles Keogh" and tested for the part on 27 May 1958, according to production reports at the Walt Disney Archives. Parker subsequently refused the second-billed role, however, and was placed on suspension, according to Var . Studio publicity states that over five hundred Indians were used as warriors in Sitting Bull's army, and two hundred and fifty residents of Bend and Madras, OR, were used as cavalry soldiers. According to the San Francisco News , the role of Sitting Bull was originally to have been played by an Indian actor named Blue Eagle, but after receiving the news that he had won the role, Blue Eagle died from a heart attack.
       According to an article in the Rapid City Daily Journal included in a studio scrapbook, Disney chose Northern and ... More Less

The working titles of this film were A Horse Called Comanche and Comanche . The pressbook for the film stated that this was "the first full-scale movie attempt to tell the battle story [of Custer's Last Stand] from the Indian viewpoint." For more information about Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, please see the entry for They Died With Their Boots On in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 . David Appel's novel was purchased by Walt Disney in Oct 1956, according to news items, and in Apr 1958, as production was being planned, it had still not been decided whether it would be a feature-length theatrical film, or a two-part feature for the ABC television series Disneyland .
       Fess Parker was originally scheduled for the role of "Captain Myles Keogh" and tested for the part on 27 May 1958, according to production reports at the Walt Disney Archives. Parker subsequently refused the second-billed role, however, and was placed on suspension, according to Var . Studio publicity states that over five hundred Indians were used as warriors in Sitting Bull's army, and two hundred and fifty residents of Bend and Madras, OR, were used as cavalry soldiers. According to the San Francisco News , the role of Sitting Bull was originally to have been played by an Indian actor named Blue Eagle, but after receiving the news that he had won the role, Blue Eagle died from a heart attack.
       According to an article in the Rapid City Daily Journal included in a studio scrapbook, Disney chose Northern and Central Oregon locations for filming over locations scouted in South Dakota. Studio publicity adds the following information about Oregon location sites: the re-enactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn was shot at the Warm Springs Reservation; Custer's command headquarters was built near the town of Bend; and an Indian village was constructed at the Deschutes River. Shooting also took place at Madras, OR, according to production reports, and process shots were completed at M-G-M Studios.
       Reviews generally praised the film, and a few applauded the studio for its concern with historical accuracy. The film was criticized, however, for evading issues concerning the causes of the Little Big Horn conflict and for romanticizing the Sioux. However, CSM criticized the film for making "no attempt to explore the rights and wrongs of the situation between the redskins and whites in the 1870's." NYT noted that the film "rarely suggests the basic causes of Indian-white friction." The film was telecast as Comanche in two parts, on 18 Feb and 25 Feb 1962, on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color . In 1977, the film was retitled A Horse Called Comanche , according to LAT . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Bend (OR) Bulletin
21 May 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
4 Jun 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
5 Jun 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
25 Jun 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
1 Jul 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
15 Jul 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
24 Jul 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
23 Oct 1958.
---
Bend (OR) Bulletin
24 Jan 1959.
---
Beverly Hills Citizen-News
6 Jan 1959.
---
Box Office
27 Oct 1956.
---
Box Office
29 Dec 1958.
---
Capital Journal (Salem, OR)
28 Jun 1958.
---
Central Oregonian
24 Jul 1958.
---
Central Oregonian
26 Jul 1958.
---
Christian Science Monitor
30 Dec 1958.
---
Cue
7 Mar 1959.
---
Daily Variety
1 Apr 1958.
---
Daily Variety
1 May 1958.
---
Daily Variety
27 May 1958.
---
Daily Variety
28 May 1958.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1958.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jul 1958.
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 58
p. 3.
Enterprise-Courier (Oregon City, OR)
25 Jul 1958.
---
Eugene (OR) Register-Guard
22 Jun 1958.
---
Film Daily
16 Dec 58
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
20 Dec 58
p. 203.
Hollywood Citizen-News
26 Dec 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1958
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 58
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
23 Oct 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1977.
---
Madras (OR) Pioneer
22 May 1958.
---
Madras (OR) Pioneer
10 Jul 1958.
---
Madras (OR) Pioneer
24 Jul 1958.
---
Motion Picture Daily
22 Dec 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Dec 58
p. 92.
New York Post
1 Oct 1958.
---
New York Times
18 May 1958.
---
New York Times
26 Mar 1959
p. 27.
Newsweek
5 Jan 1959.
---
Oregon Journal
17 Jul 1958.
---
Oregon Journal
22 Jan 1959.
---
Rapid City (SD) Daily Journal
21 May 1958.
---
Redwood City, California Tribune
9 Feb 1959.
---
San Francisco News
26 May 1958.
---
The Exhibitor
24 Dec 58
p. 4548.
The Oregonian
2 May 1958.
---
The Oregonian
25 May 1958.
---
The Oregonian
22 Jun 1958.
---
The Oregonian
2 Jul 1958.
---
Variety
17 Dec 1958.
p. 6.
Yakima Morning Herald
10 Jun 1958.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Robert Buzz Henry
Lynn Burke
Glen Wright
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Stills
Key grip
Best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Generator op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Painter
Painter
Painter
Drapery
Drapery
Prop master
Propmaker
Propmaker
Props
Carpenter foreman
Constr
Lead man
Greensman
Greensman
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd mixer
Boom man
Cable man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Matte artist
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Horse trainer
Horse trainer
Ramrod
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
American Humane Association man
Laborer
Swing gang
Timekeeper
Loc auditor
First aid man
Driver capt.
Stretchout driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
STAND INS
Stunt rider for Sal Mineo
Stunt double for Sal Mineo
Stand-in for Sal Mineo
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Comanche by David Appel (Cleveland, 1951).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Tonka," music by George Bruns, lyrics by Gil George.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
A Horse Called Comanche
Comanche
Release Date:
25 December 1958
Production Date:
4 June--25 July 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
14 November 1958
Copyright Number:
LP13958
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
96-97
Length(in feet):
8,746
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19127
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the Montana Territory of 1876, two young braves, White Bull and his friend, Strong Bear, watch as their elders chase after a herd of wild horses. One horse in particular, a strong and swift stallion, catches their attention. White Bull, in an abortive attempt to capture this horse, loses his cousin Yellow Bull's prized rope. Back at the Indian village, White Bull's uncle, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, is angry with him for not only losing the rope, but also for losing the quiver, bow and arrows that the chief gave him. He forbids White Bull from hunting until he has proven himself worthy of trust. The next morning when White Bull goes searching for the missing items, he captures the horse and names it Tonka Wakan, meaning "The Great One." After weeks of working with Tonka and gradually gaining his trust, White Bull returns to his people, who have fled to a new village to escape certain destruction by the U.S. Cavalry. When Sitting Bull rewards White Bull for his courage, ingenuity and tenacity, Yellow Bull becomes envious and demands that Tonka be given to him. Regretfully, the chief concedes that it is Yellow Bull's right to have Tonka, given his senior status in the tribe. One night, White Bull, appalled at the way Yellow Bull has been treating Tonka, sets the horse free. Tonka is soon captured by some horse traders, who sell him to Captain Myles Keogh of the Cavalry. Appreciative of Tonka's speed, strength and beauty, Keogh takes pride in the horse and treats him with great care. Meanwhile, White Bull is sent on a mission with some ... +


In the Montana Territory of 1876, two young braves, White Bull and his friend, Strong Bear, watch as their elders chase after a herd of wild horses. One horse in particular, a strong and swift stallion, catches their attention. White Bull, in an abortive attempt to capture this horse, loses his cousin Yellow Bull's prized rope. Back at the Indian village, White Bull's uncle, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, is angry with him for not only losing the rope, but also for losing the quiver, bow and arrows that the chief gave him. He forbids White Bull from hunting until he has proven himself worthy of trust. The next morning when White Bull goes searching for the missing items, he captures the horse and names it Tonka Wakan, meaning "The Great One." After weeks of working with Tonka and gradually gaining his trust, White Bull returns to his people, who have fled to a new village to escape certain destruction by the U.S. Cavalry. When Sitting Bull rewards White Bull for his courage, ingenuity and tenacity, Yellow Bull becomes envious and demands that Tonka be given to him. Regretfully, the chief concedes that it is Yellow Bull's right to have Tonka, given his senior status in the tribe. One night, White Bull, appalled at the way Yellow Bull has been treating Tonka, sets the horse free. Tonka is soon captured by some horse traders, who sell him to Captain Myles Keogh of the Cavalry. Appreciative of Tonka's speed, strength and beauty, Keogh takes pride in the horse and treats him with great care. Meanwhile, White Bull is sent on a mission with some other braves to find out how many soldiers threaten the Indians. While scouting Fort Lincoln, White Bull is relieved to discover Tonka safely residing in the fort's stable. When Keogh finds that White Bull was Tonka's owner, he praises him for training Tonka so gently and so well. After White Bull is questioned by General George Armstrong Custer, he is allowed to ride Tonka once before he is set free. Custer, expressing a great desire to massacre the Indians, begins to lay plans for the big attack. He does not realize that a legion of Indians, Sioux as well as many other tribes, are planning their own war against him. When the day of the assault arrives, Custer and his men are completely surprised as they are surrounded by continuing waves of Indians. As the bloody battle ensues, White Bull is beaten unconscious, while Strong Bear is killed during an attempt to save him. Custer, raging and defiant until the end, is shot through the head. After killing Keogh, Yellow Bull is trampled to death by Tonka before he can claim Keogh's scalp. White Bull eventually revives and is tending to Tonka when a group of soldiers appear. One of the soldiers, upon recognizing White Bull from Fort Lincoln, prevents his man from shooting the Indian. He takes both White Bull and Tonka back to the fort. On 10 April 1878, a proclamation is made recognizing Tonka as the only survivor of Custer's Last Stand and retiring him from further duty. Tonka is to reside at Fort Lincoln, living the remainder of his days in comfort and with the only person who will ever be able to ride him again, his exercise boy, White Bull. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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