Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

Cheyenne Autumn (1964)Cheyenne Autumn is a western movie released in 1964 by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film follows the story of two Native American chiefs who lead their people on a journey from the Oklahoma territory to Wyoming, and the government army trying to stop them.

The film ran with a pair of taglines upon its promotional period, including "Land-grabbing doll patriots!" and "1,500 miles of heroism and incredible adventure!"

Cast and Crew of Cheyenne Autumn

Cheyenne Autumn stars Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland as Little Wolf and Dull Knife, respectively. Richard Widmark plays Captain Thomas Archer, the man trying to stop them. James Stewart plays Wyatt Earp, and Arthur Kennedy plays Doc Holliday. The supporting cast includes Carroll Baker, Edward G. Robinson, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo, Patrick Wayne, Elizabeth Allen, John Carradine, Victor Jory, and George O’Brien.

Cheyenne Autumn was directed by John Ford, and produced by John Ford and Bernhard Smith. The screenplay for Cheyenne Autumn was written by James R. Webb, Howard Fast, and Mari Sandoz. Alex North composed the score. Otho Lovering edited Cheyenne Autumn, while William H. Clothier acted as cinematographer.

Cheyenne Autumn was released on October 3, 1964 with a running length of 154 minutes.

Plot Summary for Cheyenne Autumn

Cheyenne Autumn begins in the 1870s, when the Cheyenne Indians are removed from the home in Wyoming and moved to a desolate reservation in Oklahoma. They are promised federal aide, but grow restless when it doesn’t arrive after a full year. The Indians originally numbered over 1,000, but disease and famine has reduced their ranks to 286 members. The survivors set out on a 1,500 mile journey to return to Yellowstone, their former home.

A Quaker school teacher named Deborah Wright accompanies the Cheyenne Indians on their journey. Captain Thomas Archer, the man engaged to Deborah, leads an army troop to pursue and stop the tribe. Deborah hopes to resolve the situation peacefully. Red Shirt, a young Cheyenne brave, engages in the skirmish with the army, and ends up killing several US soldiers.

The media chooses to focus on Red Shirts exploits, and depicts the tribe as bloodthirsty savages. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp form a war party to help pursue the tribes, but Earp decides to lead his men along the incorrect path until more information can be learned about the tribe.

As winter sets in, the tribe becomes divided. Half of the Cheyenne Indians decide to continue their journey, while the other half surrenders at Fort Robinson to Captain Wessels. Archer learns that Wessels is about to march the Cheyenne Indians to Oklahoma, and seeks help in Washington from the Interior Secretary. Meanwhile, the surrendered Cheyenne Indians rebel against Wessels and kill him. Troops surround the Indians and prepare to kill them, just as Archer and the Secretary arrive and negotiate a deal that will allow the Indians to return to Wyoming.

Chief Little Wolf enters a pistol duel with Red Shirt in order settle a dispute over Little Wolf’s wife. Little Wolf kills Red Shirt, but goes into exile after breaking his vow to never kill a fellow Cheyenne Indian. Peace returns to the Cheyenne Indians, and Deborah and Archer marry and decide to stay with the tribe.

Awards for Cheyenne Autumn

Cheyenne Autumn was nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for Best Cinematography. Gilbert Roland was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. The film also took 3rd place in the Laurel Awards in the category of Action and Drama. Cheyenne Autumn won a Bronze Wrangler award at the Western Heritage Awards.

Additional Information about Cheyenne Autumn

John Ford and James Stewart have said that the sequence involving Wyatt Earp (played by Stewart) was added to the film in lieu of an intermission. The sequence had little to do with the plot of the film, but John Ford didn’t want people to leave the theatre despite its long running time.

Studio executives urged John Ford to cast Anthony Quinn and Richard Boone in the roles of Dull Knife and Little Wolf because of their Native American heritage. Gilbert Roland and Ricardo Montalban, two actors of Mexican descent, ended up with the roles.

Spencer Tracy was originally billed to play the Secretary of Interior, but was replaced with Edward G. Robinson after suffering a heart attack. The scenes involving Robinson were shot exclusively indoors at the studio.

The scene involving the duel between Red Shirt and Little Wolf was shot on the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated. Though John Ford was deeply saddened by the loss of the president, he maintained his filming schedule.

A nude scene involving Carroll Baker was planned for the film, but was later scrapped by John Ford. Sal Mineo, an actor in the film, wasn’t allowed to have any dialog because of his thick Bronx accent.