Distant Drums (1951)

100-101 or 103 mins | Drama | 29 December 1951

Director:

Raoul Walsh

Producer:

Milton Sperling

Cinematographer:

Sid Hickox

Production Designer:

Douglas Bacon

Production Company:

United States Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Distant Drums includes the following written epilogue: "This picture was photographed in the heart of the Florida Everglades, at Silver Springs and at Castillo de San Marcos in the Southeastern National Monuments through the courtesy of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service." However, while Martin Rackin and Niven Busch were writing the screenplay, a Jan 1951 HR news item announced that the film would be shot entirely in Utah. According to contemporary news items, United States Pictures used the title of Dan Totheroh's play Distant Drums , which it had purchased in 1946, for this film, even though the play, which was filmed in 1946 as South of St. Louis , bears no resemblance to the film.
       The character of "Chief Ocala" may have been based on the real-life Seminole chief, Chief Osceola, who led the battle against the United States during the second Seminole War and was captured by the Americans while surrendering. The second war between the Seminoles and the United States was sparked when a majority of the Seminole Indian chiefs in Florida refused to honor the treaty of removal signed by a small number of Seminole chiefs. For more information about Osceola, see the entry below for Naked in the Sun .
       Studio publicity material in the AMPAS production file indicates that Mel Archer, a long distance swimming champion, and David Rochlen, a Santa Monica, CA, lifeguard, were given roles in the film because of their underwater expertise. Although Archer is credited in the picture, Rochlen's appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. An Apr 1951 HR ... More Less

Distant Drums includes the following written epilogue: "This picture was photographed in the heart of the Florida Everglades, at Silver Springs and at Castillo de San Marcos in the Southeastern National Monuments through the courtesy of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service." However, while Martin Rackin and Niven Busch were writing the screenplay, a Jan 1951 HR news item announced that the film would be shot entirely in Utah. According to contemporary news items, United States Pictures used the title of Dan Totheroh's play Distant Drums , which it had purchased in 1946, for this film, even though the play, which was filmed in 1946 as South of St. Louis , bears no resemblance to the film.
       The character of "Chief Ocala" may have been based on the real-life Seminole chief, Chief Osceola, who led the battle against the United States during the second Seminole War and was captured by the Americans while surrendering. The second war between the Seminoles and the United States was sparked when a majority of the Seminole Indian chiefs in Florida refused to honor the treaty of removal signed by a small number of Seminole chiefs. For more information about Osceola, see the entry below for Naked in the Sun .
       Studio publicity material in the AMPAS production file indicates that Mel Archer, a long distance swimming champion, and David Rochlen, a Santa Monica, CA, lifeguard, were given roles in the film because of their underwater expertise. Although Archer is credited in the picture, Rochlen's appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. An Apr 1951 HR news item adds Florida dancing teachers Peggy and Marie Mixon to the cast, but their appearance is also unconfirmed. According to a Jul 1951 HR news item, Alex North was reported to be writing the score, but he was not credited onscreen and his contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined.
       The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS library contains a letter dated 20 Mar 1951 from PCA director Joseph I. Breen to producer Milton Sperling in which Breen urged Sperling to change the opening narration of film. The narration apparently referred to the Seminole Indians as "more vile than the rattlesnakes" and "sadistic and bloodthirsty." Breen suggested that "something far less derogatory should be substituted, in order to avoid justified complaint." According to a May 1951 article in AmCin , a camera vehicle called the "swampmobile" was used to shoot scenes in inaccessible areas of the Florida Everglades. Modern sources add Kenneth MacDonald to the cast and note the similarities between Distant Drums and Raoul Walsh's 1945 World War II picture Objective, Burma! More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 May 51
p. 206.
Box Office
8 Dec 1951.
---
Daily Variety
29 Nov 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Nov 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 1951
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 51
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1951
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1951
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 51
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1951
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1951
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 51
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
29 May 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Dec 51
p. 1126.
New York Times
24 Dec 51
p. 10.
New York Times
26 Dec 51
p. 19.
Variety
5 Dec 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Comp of percussion composition
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Double for Gary Cooper
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 December 1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 December 1951
Production Date:
31 March--5 June 1951
Copyright Claimant:
United States Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 December 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1380
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
100-101 or 103
Length(in feet):
9,052
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15280
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1840, seven years after the beginning of the Seminole Indian war in Florida, U.S. Army General Zachary Taylor sends for naval officer Lieutenant Richard Tufts to undertake a special mission to defeat the Indians. Upon his arrival in Florida, Tufts meets his scout, Monk, who guides him through the alligator-ridden swamp to the island home of the mission's commander, Capt. Quincy Wyatt, a reclusive widower and an expert swamp fighter. After bidding farewell to his five-year-old son, whose mother was a Creek princess, Wyatt goes with Tufts and Monk to Army headquarters, where they receive their official instructions from General Taylor and inspect their troops. Wyatt and his company then pursue the first objectives of their mission--to recapture a western fortress taken by the Seminoles and free the white prisoners being held captive there. No sooner do Wyatt and his men free the prisoners, among whom is the beautiful Judy Beckett, than they are pursued by the Seminoles and forced to abandon their plans to board a rescue boat on Lake Okeechobee. Wyatt commands his forces to beat a hasty retreat deep into the Everglades, where a brush fire is set to hold back the approaching Indians. The fire keeps the Indians temporarily at bay, but things look bad for Wyatt when the drumbeat of the Indian battle cry is sounded and the platoon is faced with little room for escape. Thinking quickly, Wyatt decides to send his platoon with Sgt. Shane, while he and Tufts stay behind to build canoes, which will be used to rendezvous with the platoon at the Indian burial grounds. During this time, a romance is sparked between ... +


In 1840, seven years after the beginning of the Seminole Indian war in Florida, U.S. Army General Zachary Taylor sends for naval officer Lieutenant Richard Tufts to undertake a special mission to defeat the Indians. Upon his arrival in Florida, Tufts meets his scout, Monk, who guides him through the alligator-ridden swamp to the island home of the mission's commander, Capt. Quincy Wyatt, a reclusive widower and an expert swamp fighter. After bidding farewell to his five-year-old son, whose mother was a Creek princess, Wyatt goes with Tufts and Monk to Army headquarters, where they receive their official instructions from General Taylor and inspect their troops. Wyatt and his company then pursue the first objectives of their mission--to recapture a western fortress taken by the Seminoles and free the white prisoners being held captive there. No sooner do Wyatt and his men free the prisoners, among whom is the beautiful Judy Beckett, than they are pursued by the Seminoles and forced to abandon their plans to board a rescue boat on Lake Okeechobee. Wyatt commands his forces to beat a hasty retreat deep into the Everglades, where a brush fire is set to hold back the approaching Indians. The fire keeps the Indians temporarily at bay, but things look bad for Wyatt when the drumbeat of the Indian battle cry is sounded and the platoon is faced with little room for escape. Thinking quickly, Wyatt decides to send his platoon with Sgt. Shane, while he and Tufts stay behind to build canoes, which will be used to rendezvous with the platoon at the Indian burial grounds. During this time, a romance is sparked between Wyatt and Judy, who tells Wyatt that she is intent on returning to Savannah to take revenge upon the man who killed her father. When the canoes are completed, Wyatt, Tufts and Judy journey to the burial grounds, but Shane and the platoon are not there when they arrive. They decide to wait, but the only person who emerges from the darkness is Monk, who arrives with news that the platoon has been ambushed and massacred by the Seminoles. Meanwhile, General Taylor, fearing that Wyatt's platoon has met its demise in the Florida swamps, calls off his search for the fighters and orders his men to rescue Wyatt's son. When Wyatt and the others finally make it to Wyatt's island, they find it burned out and the boy missing. Fearing that his son is dead, Wyatt decides to end his retreat and fight his attackers. After he defeats Chief Ocala, the Seminole chief, in a daring underwater fight, the rest of the Seminole warriors capitulate and flee in fear. Wyatt's success is made sweeter when General Taylor safely delivers his son and Judy decides to stay with him on the island. +

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

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