Broken Arrow (1950)

92-93 mins | Western | August 1950

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Blood Brother , Arrow and War Paint . In an author's note to the novel Blood Brother , Elliott Arnold states that "the main events in the book are entirely true.... Thomas Jeffords ran the mail, went up alone to see Cochise, became his friend and later his blood brother, and then led General Howard to Cochise's camp to make the final peace." While noting that Jeffords "confided in a number of close American friends that he was intimate with a lovely Indian girl," Arnold points out, however, that "the entire story of Jeffords and Sonseeahray is pure fiction and every detail in it was invented, against a known historical background." The novel covers a longer period of history than the film. Cochise died in 1874 and Jeffords in 1914.
       According to information in news items and the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Norma Productions, Inc., of which Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht were the principals, bought the screen rights to Blood Brother in 1948, planning to make the film in the spring of 1949 with Julian Blaustein producing. On 30 Jul 1948, Norma Productions signed a contract with Michael Blankfort to write the screenplay. In 1991, it was publicly revealed that Blaustein had actually asked blacklisted writer Albert Maltz to write the screenplay. After several writers turned down his request to "front" for him, Maltz asked Blankfort, a close friend, who accepted and allowed his name to be used for free. A 29 Jun 1991 LAT article reproduces a contract dated ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Blood Brother , Arrow and War Paint . In an author's note to the novel Blood Brother , Elliott Arnold states that "the main events in the book are entirely true.... Thomas Jeffords ran the mail, went up alone to see Cochise, became his friend and later his blood brother, and then led General Howard to Cochise's camp to make the final peace." While noting that Jeffords "confided in a number of close American friends that he was intimate with a lovely Indian girl," Arnold points out, however, that "the entire story of Jeffords and Sonseeahray is pure fiction and every detail in it was invented, against a known historical background." The novel covers a longer period of history than the film. Cochise died in 1874 and Jeffords in 1914.
       According to information in news items and the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Norma Productions, Inc., of which Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht were the principals, bought the screen rights to Blood Brother in 1948, planning to make the film in the spring of 1949 with Julian Blaustein producing. On 30 Jul 1948, Norma Productions signed a contract with Michael Blankfort to write the screenplay. In 1991, it was publicly revealed that Blaustein had actually asked blacklisted writer Albert Maltz to write the screenplay. After several writers turned down his request to "front" for him, Maltz asked Blankfort, a close friend, who accepted and allowed his name to be used for free. A 29 Jun 1991 LAT article reproduces a contract dated 21 Aug 1948 in which Blankfort engages Maltz to do "the major portion of the work."
       In Apr 1949, Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the rights to the novel from Music Corporation of America, which then owned the rights, according to a NYT news item. The deal included the stipulation that James Stewart (a client of MCA) would star in the film, that Blaustein would produce (as his first assignment under a seven-year optional contract with the studio) and that Twentieth Century-Fox would own the rights to the story treatments and scripts, supposedly written by Blankfort, but actually written by Maltz. The rights had previously been offered to Warner Bros., also with a stipulation that Stewart would star. In an "Author's Foreward" to a script dated 11 Apr 1949, in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Maltz, writing under Blankfort's name, listed a number of concerns dealing with retaining the screenplay's accuracy and authenticity in the filming. He emphasized that "the drama is based upon fact. The main events of the story, which occurred in the years 1870-1872, happened as they are related here." Maltz assumed that "all exterior scenes will be photographed in the magnificent and neglected section of Arizona, in which the events occurred," and encouraged the studio to use Apache Indians as cast members: "The Apaches are today, as they were yesterday, a vigorous and handsome people. It is both practical and advisable that they be used in the cast." In a pre-release LAT article of 21 May 1950, Blaustein stated, "We have treated [the Indians] as people, not savages, have tried to show that the only real 'heavies' are ignorance, misunderstanding and intolerance. In short, none of our Indians say 'Ugh!'" In the narrated opening of the film, the character of "Tom Jeffords" declares, "what I have to tell happened exactly as you'll see it. The only change will be that when the Apaches speak--they will speak in our language."
       After reviewing the final script draft of 20 May 1949, Darryl F. Zanuck, Vice-President in charge of production, complained that Jeffords was too "noble and untainted, so uncompromisingly lofty in his ideals" and that it was unclear what "motivated him to go to Cochise in the first place." Zanuck commented that in recent films, a "too noble hero is doomed at the box office." In a meeting between Zanuck, Blaustein, Blankfort and director Delmer Daves, it was decided to have Jeffords, in the opening narration, state that he came to Apache country to look for gold and that when he met up with the Indian boy, he was on his way back to Tucson to take a job as a scout. In the narration, Jeffords explains that he saved the boy's life because "some crazy impulse made me do it." After the revised final script of 11 Jun 1949, the scene of the attempted lynching of Jeffords was added following a meeting with Zanuck, Blaustein and Blankfort.
       In the 1991 LAT article, Blaustein stated that he showed Blankfort's changes secretly to Maltz. The article states that Maltz was in prison when Broken Arrow was released, serving time for failing to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), and that in 1952, after Blankfort testified before HUAC and mentioned names of his ex-wife and cousin, while stating that he had no knowledge that they had been members of the Communist party, Maltz refused ever to speak to Blankfort again. Before he died, Blankfort wrote a letter to the Writers Guild of America acknowledging that Maltz wrote Broken Arrow , but died before he mailed it. Blaustein related that Maltz preferred that the letter not be sent, but changed his mind a year after Blankfort's death and authorized writer Larry Ceplair to make his role known. Maltz died in 1985, and in Jul 1991, the Writers Guild voted to correct the screen credit for the film to reflect that Maltz wrote the screenplay and to issue "a strong statement of appreciation for the courage of screenwriter Michael Blankfort," who by "fronting" risked being blacklisted himself. Alfred Levitt, a blacklisted writer, brought the issue before the board based on information received by Ceplair, following talks with the wives of both writers and other principals. In 1992, the Writers Guild posthumously awarded Maltz the award that had been given to Blankfort in 1950 for the best-written American western of that year.
       In correspondence included in the Records of the Twentieth Century-Fox Legal Department (concerning a lawsuit filed on behalf of author Robert Gessner, who had used the title Broken Arrow for his 1933 novel about an Indian boy), the origination of the title for the film is described: Blaustein stated that Zanuck did not like the title of the novel, Blood Brother . Arrow was selected as a temporary title. Sometime later, War Paint , which Blaustein did not like, was suggested by the studio's New York office. During shooting in Arizona, a local Indian told director Daves a story concerning his father, who had "engaged in a number of battles" with Cochise, and mentioned that the breaking of an arrow was the symbol for peace being made. Daves related the story to Blaustein, who came up with the title Broken Arrow , "a wonderful title for our picture, and in fact the only title that would symbolically represent our entire story." In Feb 1952, Fox agreed to settle with Gessner for $1,000 to dispose of litigation regarding the title.
       Location shooting for the film was done during a six-week period near the Apache White River Reservation and in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona, as well as in Lone Pine, CA. According to publicity for Broken Arrow , the film was shot in the locations where the story actually took place, and 375 Apache Indians appeared in the film. Jeff Chandler was under contract to Universal-International at the time. The picture marked the film debut of Raymond Bramley, a New York stage actor. The Governor of Oklahoma invited the studio to hold their premiere there. According to an unidentified news item in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library, Broken Arrow was cited by the film committee of the Association on American Indian Affairs "as one of the first films since The Vanishing American (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ) to attempt a serious portrayal of the Indian side of American history and to show the Indian as a real human being the same as a white man." The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Jeff Chandler), and Cinematography (color).
       Reviews generally praised the film's effort to depict the Apaches in a more sympathetic and well-rounded manner than most of Hollywood's previous portrayals; however, some reviewers criticized the film for its "romantic" characterization of Native Americans. HR commented that the film "accomplishes the miracle of portraying the American Indian as a person much more than the stereotyped rug peddler or vicious savage. Instead he is presented as a member of an ancient and honorable race whose primitive intelligence is the match of any civilized culture, not merely in matters of conflict but in social organization, community service and morality." HR noted further that the wars between Apaches and settlers had been "covered many, many times before on the screen but never from the angle of the Apaches. This is the plot point that sets Broken Arrow apart." Fortnight wrote, "It chides the canard that the warlike Apaches were a murderous lot, presenting them as a nation fighting honorably for survival. While this theory undoubtedly has historical fact behind it, Broken Arrow substitutes earnestness for profundity and romance in lieu of honest drama." Bosley Crowther of NYT complained, "The misfortune here is that a purpose and an idea have been submerged in a typical rush of prettification and over-emphasis. Sure, the American Indian has been most cruelly maligned and his plight as a 'minorities' person has not yet been fully clarified. But in trying to disabuse the public of a traditional stereotype, the producers have here portrayed the Indian in an equally false, romantic white ideal. Why couldn't the Indians in this picture be as natural, inelegant and unkempt as Mr. Stewart and the other white men?"
       Screen Directors' Playhouse presented a radio broadcast of Broken Arrow on 5 Sep 1951, starring James Stewart, Jeff Chandler and Debra Paget. On 2 May 1956, the 20th Century-Fox Hour presented a broadcast of a television version of Broken Arrow , starring Ricardo Montalban, John Lupton and Rita Moreno, and directed by Robert Stevenson. This became the pilot for the Broken Arrow television series, starring Lupton and Michael Ansara, which began on 25 Sep 1956 and ran through the 1958 season, with re-runs lasting through the summer of 1960. Author Elliott Arnold was the story editor of the television series. According to modern sources, Trevor Bardette was also in the cast. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Jun 1950.
---
Cue
22 Jul 1950.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jun 50
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 91
p. 3, 10
Film Daily
14 Jun 50
p. 12.
Fortnight
9 Jun 1950.
---
Harrison's Reports
17 Jun 50
p. 94.
Hollywood Citizen-News
22 Aug 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 1949.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 49
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 50
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 91
pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
21 May 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Aug 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 91
p. F1, F16.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jul 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1992.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Jun 50
p. 345.
New York Times
8 Sep 1948.
---
New York Times
13 Apr 1949.
---
New York Times
21 Jul 50
p. 15.
New York Times
23 Jul 1950.
---
Saturday Review
5 Aug 1950.
---
The Exhibitor
21 Jun 50
pp. 2871-72.
Variety
14 Jun 50
p. 8.
Variety
19 Jul 1950.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr [uncredited]
Scr ["front" for Albert Maltz]
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
Scr supv
Archery expert
Dir of pub
STAND INS
Speaking voice double for Argentina Brunetti
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor color consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Blood Brother by Elliott Arnold (New York, 1947).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Blood Brothers
Arrow
War Paint
Release Date:
August 1950
Premiere Information:
World premieres in New York, Tulsa, OK and Broken Arrow, OK: 21 July 1950
Production Date:
3 June--2 August 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
21 July 1950
Copyright Number:
LP440
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
92-93
Length(in feet):
8,333
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
13926
SYNOPSIS

In 1870, prospector Tom Jeffords, a former soldier in the Union Army, is summoned to Tucson by Colonel Bernall. Riding through the Arizona territory of the Chiricahua Apache, who have been fighting with the white settlers for ten years, Tom finds an injured fourteen-year-old Chiricahua youth. Tom easily dodges the boy's weak attempt to stab him, then removes some bullets from the boy, who is named Machogee. When Machogee is well enough to travel, he gives Tom a necklace to ward off sickness and explains that he must return because he knows his mother misses him. Tom realizes for the first time that Apache mothers, whom he had considered "savages," cry for their children. Then Machogee's father, Pionsenay, accompanied by other warriors, finds them. The warriors interrogate and taunt Tom, then release him as a reward for helping Machogee. At first, Tom is impressed with their sense of fair play, but changes his mind when they tie him to a tree and gag him to prevent him from warning an approaching party of miners. After killing most of the whites, the Apaches find three Indian scalps in the pouch of one man and bury him with only his head above ground. Tom is forced to watch while the man is eaten alive by ants. In Tucson, Tom refuses to be Bernall's scout. Bernall is convinced that he can win the war against the Apache leader Cochise in six months, but Tom believes that Cochise, who now commands the entire Apache nation, will prevail. After Ben Slade, a rancher whose wife was killed in an Apache raid, questions Tom's loyalty, Tom decides to negotiate with Cochise ... +


In 1870, prospector Tom Jeffords, a former soldier in the Union Army, is summoned to Tucson by Colonel Bernall. Riding through the Arizona territory of the Chiricahua Apache, who have been fighting with the white settlers for ten years, Tom finds an injured fourteen-year-old Chiricahua youth. Tom easily dodges the boy's weak attempt to stab him, then removes some bullets from the boy, who is named Machogee. When Machogee is well enough to travel, he gives Tom a necklace to ward off sickness and explains that he must return because he knows his mother misses him. Tom realizes for the first time that Apache mothers, whom he had considered "savages," cry for their children. Then Machogee's father, Pionsenay, accompanied by other warriors, finds them. The warriors interrogate and taunt Tom, then release him as a reward for helping Machogee. At first, Tom is impressed with their sense of fair play, but changes his mind when they tie him to a tree and gag him to prevent him from warning an approaching party of miners. After killing most of the whites, the Apaches find three Indian scalps in the pouch of one man and bury him with only his head above ground. Tom is forced to watch while the man is eaten alive by ants. In Tucson, Tom refuses to be Bernall's scout. Bernall is convinced that he can win the war against the Apache leader Cochise in six months, but Tom believes that Cochise, who now commands the entire Apache nation, will prevail. After Ben Slade, a rancher whose wife was killed in an Apache raid, questions Tom's loyalty, Tom decides to negotiate with Cochise to allow the mail to pass unmolested through Apache territory. To this end, he studies Chiricahua language and customs with Juan, a friendly Apache. Tom travels three days to Cochise's stronghold in the mountains. During his meeting with Cochise, Tom admits that the Americans have done the Apache much harm, but adds that maybe both can live together as brothers. Cochise invites Tom to stay the night, and later, during a ceremonial dance, is surprised by Tom's knowledge of the sunrise ceremony. Pleased with the respect that Tom has for his people, Cochise introduces Tom to the beautiful Sonseeahray, in whose honor the sunrise ceremony will be held. Tom shows her his arm, which has an old war wound, and she touches it, saying it will never hurt again. She then predicts that his life will be long and good. The next morning, while shaving, Tom sees Sonseeahray watching him with interest. When he gives her his mirror, she refuses it uneasily, explaining that she can only talk to young men at ceremonies or dances. Later Tom finds her "by accident" and confesses that although he has willingly lived most of his life alone, he felt lonely when she touched him and prayed for him. Sonseeahray runs off at Cochise's approach. Cochise announces that he will let the mail riders pass through his territory in order to demonstrate his power over his people. Back in Tucson, Tom presents the agreement to the skeptical townsfolk, one of whom bets Tom $300 that five riders in succession will not go through unharmed. Milt Duffield, who is in charge of the mail service, volunteers to be the first rider. Milt returns safely, as do the second, third and fourth riders. Then Bernall escorts a wagon train through Apache territory hoping to be ambushed, as he has secretly armed the wagons. Despite his precautions, Cochise and his men destroy the train. A survivor reports the attack, just as the fifth mail rider arrives safely. Some of the townsfolk think that Cochise knew about the colonel's plan and accuse Tom of spying. A fight breaks out, and General Howard narrowly prevents Tom from being hanged. Howard asks Tom to help negotiate a fair treaty with Cochise, which will grant the Apaches equality and the right to remain free on their own land. Tom takes the offer to Cochise. While Cochise is away, Tom meets Sonseeahray by the river, and they kiss. Cochise returns from his battle against the soldiers and recites the names of the dead Apaches, including Machogee and Pionsenay. During a ceremony, Cochise notices Tom looking at Sonseeahray and explains that she is promised to Nahilzay. She chooses to dance with Tom, however. When Cochise catches them meeting secretly, Tom says that he wants to marry Sonseeahray, who insists that she will refuse Nahilzay as she has in the past. Cochise advises them that no matter where they choose to live, they will face prejudice from both whites and Apaches. Even though Cochise is against the marriage, he broaches the subject to Sonseeahray's parents, who consent to hold the wedding during the next full moon. Cochise then instructs Tom to set up a meeting between Howard and representatives of the Apache tribes. That night, Nahilzay sneaks into Tom's wickiup and tries to kill him. Tom fights him off, and Cochise, aroused by the noise, shoots Nahilzay, one of his most trusted warriors. At the peace conference, when Tom explains the details of the treaty, Goklia, an Apache leader, proclaims that Cochise has lost his taste for battle and demands a new chief. Cochise encourages his people to learn new ways, saying that the Americans are now stronger than the Apache. He proposes a trial lasting three "moons" to see if the treaty will be kept and breaks an arrow as a symbol of peace. Those who stay with him must promise to follow the way of peace. If more walk than stay, he will no longer be their chief. Only a small number join Goklia, who says he is ashamed to be a Chiricahua and will now be known by his Mexican name, "Geronimo." Tom rides with the first Butterfield stage to leave Tucson. At a river, the stage is attacked by Apaches, but Tom realizes they are Geronimo's renegades and sends a smoke signal for help, after which the renegades are driven off by Apaches. On the twelfth day of the peace, Tom and Sonseeahray are married. When Cochise is told about the attack on the stage, he orders his men to protect all whites in the future. While Cochise visits Tom and Sonseeahray, Slade's son Chip is found in the stronghold. Chip says that Apaches stole two colts from his ranch, and Tom convinces Cochise to investigate. When they arrive at the river, Chip signals his father, who is waiting with some other men on the rocks above. During the ensuing battle, Tom is shot, Sonseeahray is killed, and Cochise kills Chip and Slade. Seeing that their plan has failed, the others head for Mexico. When Tom revives and finds Sonseeahray dead, he asks Cochise for a knife to kill her murderer, but Cochise reminds him that peace will not come easily and vows that no one on his territory will start a war again. Later, Tom and Cochise learn that the men who attacked them were executed. Tom rides off, knowing that his wife, whose death sealed the peace, will always be with him. +

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

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