Movies

White Feather (1955, Robert Wagner, John Lund)

White Feather

John Prebble, one of the descendants of the White Feather’s hero, contributed the story which director-to-be Delmer Daves and Leo Townsend turned into a strong, holding screenplay for an intelligent and holding picture which The Sunday Times described as “a very good western about the forced migration of Indian tribes under pressure from the white settlers” while, said the Daily Express, it was “a fast-moving and touching film”.

In 1877 Wyoming, Colonel John Lund is assigned the difficult task of holding back rapacious gold prospectors at Fort Laramie until he has persuaded the Cheyenne to sign the treaty requiring them to trek southwards to their new reservation and make way for the white settlers. Fortuitously surveyor Robert Wagner has become friendly with Jeffrey Hunter, the son of Cheyenne chief Eduard Franz and with brave Hugh O’Brian.

He is welcomed into the Cheyenne camp where he meets Hunter’s sister Debra Paget and slowly begins to synpathize with the problems of the homeless tribe. When Franz finally decides that he has no option but to sign the treaty, Hunter and O’Brian think otherwise and settle on fighting the white invaders. Lund rides out to the Indian camp and, after the treaty has been signed, discovers that his entire cavalry unit has been challenged by Hunter and O’Brian – via the firing of an arrow with a white feather – to engage in battle. Only the intervention of Wagner and Paget, who now loves him, averts a massacre…

Director Robert Webb skilfully brought out the screenplay’s unusually (for the period) intelligent treatment of the Indians, and drove the narrative along at a lively pace, making excellent use, in particular, of effective locations and the flowing colour cinematography of Lucien Ballard which, noted Variety, “takes in the sweep of the western backgrounds and handles the travelling shots with fine effect”.

USA / 1955

Director: Robert Webb
Writers: Delmer Daves, Leo Townsend, from a story by John Prebble

Cast: Robert Wagner, John Lund, Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter, Eduard Franz, Noah Beery