Saturday, July 06, 2013

Tonight's Movie: War Arrow (1953)

WAR ARROW is an entertaining Universal Western which reunited Jeff Chandler and Maureen O'Hara two years after they costarred in FLAME OF ARABY (1951). It was directed by George Sherman.

At a dusty Texas fort, Jeff Chandler clashes repeatedly with his superior officer (John McIntire) over plans for the cavalry to form an alliance with displaced Seminole Indians to fight the deadly Kiowa tribe.

Chandler also falls in love with a beautiful widow (Maureen O'Hara) living at the fort -- whose husband may not be so dead after all.

There's no down time in this 78-minute film, which moved along so quickly I actually felt like a couple of scenes with Maureen O'Hara and Suzan Ball might have been left on the cutting-room floor. I was particularly mystified by the scene mid-film where O'Hara tells Chandler she doesn't love him; maybe I missed something, but it seemed like she'd had a huge change of heart since her previous scene. I felt as confused as Jeff Chandler did at that point in the film.

Other than a feeling that the movie was just a tad too short, it was colorful and enjoyable, pretty much everything one could want in a '50s Universal Western. You can't do better than Chandler and O'Hara as leads, and Charles Drake and Noah Beery Jr. were also engaging as Chandler's sidekicks.

Henry Brandon plays the honorable Seminole chief, three years before his immortal -- and tremendously scary -- Chief Scar in John Ford's THE SEARCHERS (1956). I didn't even recognize Dennis Weaver at first, playing a Seminole brave in love with the chief's fiery daughter (Ball). Ball had also appeared in Chandler's YANKEE BUCCANEER (1952); there's more on the actress and her too-short life in my review of that film.

Jay Silverheels, Jim Bannon, Steve Wyman, and Brad Jackson are also in the cast. It's fun to note that among the stuntmen IMDb lists on the film were future actors Richard Farnsworth and Bob Hoy; Farnsworth was a two-time Oscar nominee, while Hoy was best known for his years as ranch hand Joe Butler on TV's THE HIGH CHAPARRAL.

The movie was shot in Technicolor by William H. Daniels, with Southern California locations standing in for Texas. The film was written by John Michael Hayes, who would go on to write the screenplay for REAR WINDOW (1954) and other Hitchcock films.

I watched this on a VHS tape from the Universal Western Collection.

This film is also available on a Universal Western Collection DVD or in the 4 Movie Marathon Classic Western Collection.

The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.


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