Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Broken Arrow (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The Western classic BROKEN ARROW (1950) has just been released in a sumptuous new Blu-ray edition by Kino Lorber.

James Stewart stars as Tom Jeffords, a former soldier who saves the life of a young Apache boy. In turn Jeffords' life is spared by the Apaches, and he begins to wonder if there is an opportunity for peace between settlers and Indians.

Jeffords learns the Apaches' language and customs, then travels to their stronghold to meet with Apache chief Cochise (Jeff Chandler). Jeffords negotiates safe passage for U.S. mail riders with Cochise, the start of a peace effort in which he's later joined by General Howard (Basil Ruysdael).

Jeffords also finds love with an Apache girl, Sonseeahray (Debra Paget), and is allowed to marry her thanks to the support of Cochise.

My records show that I last saw this film 40 years ago (!)...after seeing it as a kid I never wanted to return to it because I was so profoundly impacted by a sad aspect of the storyline, which I won't go into here. Suffice it to say, though, that I shouldn't have waited so long to see it again. This is a beautiful and important film with marvelous performances by Stewart, Chandler, Paget, and Ruysdael. I was transfixed for the movie's 93 minutes, which flew by.

Stewart was just beginning his career as a major Western star, with this and Anthony Mann's WINCHESTER '73 (1950) released in the same year.

Stewart had, of course, appeared in the semicomic DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939) many years previously, but in his '50s Westerns he developed a new, often intense, persona, the beginnings of which are seen in this film.

Jeff Chandler's career to this point had consisted of small supporting roles, including a good part as a D.A. in ABANDONED (1949) the previous year. Parts like a gangster in JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947) or a cop in MR. BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE (1949) don't seem as though they could have given a hint Chandler had this role in him; it's a towering performance, conveying courage, grace, and humor. Chandler was very deservingly nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.

Chandler would return to the role of Cochise for two more films, THE BATTLE AT APACHE PASS (1952) and TAZA, SON OF COCHISE (1954). Those films were for Universal Studios, whereas BROKEN ARROW was a 20th Century-Fox release.

Paget is a longtime favorite actress who was just 16 when she filmed this; the movie was released the month she turned 17. It's hard to believe she was that young, nor was I aware while watching the film of the significant real-life age gap between Paget and Stewart. Thanks to the power of good acting and writing, it works.

The Oscar-nominated script was by Albert Maltz, though it was credited at the time to Michael Blankfort, who fronted for Maltz due to the blacklist. The film was significant not just for its dramatic power and visual beauty, but because of its strong sympathy for Indians, not at all common in films at the time it was made. (Anthony Mann's DEVIL'S DOORWAY, written by Guy Trosper, was released just weeks after BROKEN ARROW and also broke new ground in a positive depiction of Indians.)

BROKEN ARROW was directed by Delmer Daves. The film has much of the look of another Daves film about Indian-white relations, THE LAST WAGON (1956); the movies share some of the same Arizona locations.

While much of the movie was filmed in Arizona, the final shot of BROKEN ARROW, as Stewart rides away, was filmed in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, California.

The movie was filmed by Oscar-nominated Ernest Palmer, and the Blu-ray does his work full justice. It's one of those movies where the viewer almost feels what it must have been like standing there in Arizona as the camera rolled. This is top-drawer movie-making, shown off at its best thanks to the Kino Lorber Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray includes a Fox Movietone newsreel and a trailer gallery.

BROKEN ARROW is highly recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger barrylane said...

A note on is his marvelous performance in an intersting film called Sword In The Desert. In light of the subject matter, one that should not be overlooked my modern afficionados. Directed by George Sherman, with Dana Andrews and Marta Toren top billed. I suggest it signaled the rise of Jeff Chandler and the decline in Dana's film career.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's one I'd like to see! Looks like I have a TCM recording, I will pull it out.

Best wishes,

10:40 PM  
Blogger john k said...

SWORD IN THE DESERT was banned in the UK and has never been shown in cinemas.
The UK government,at the time were unhappy with the way British troops were
depicted.The Brits were lampooned rather than vilified.I saw the film at London's
National Film Theatre some 20 years ago in a "banned" season-according to the
program notes at the time a left wing cinema in Regent Street tried to show the film
and riots ensued.I find it amazing that London's West End had a left wing cinema
in 1949.Sherman's film is a knockout political thriller-with a supreme cast.

Barry,I was very upset by a person's rudeness towards you over at Toby's recently
totally uncalled for-his post should have been deleted.

Laura, I totally agree that the Kino Blu Ray of BROKEN ARROW is stunning.
Does that mean that you are on Kino's "screeners" list-if so that's great so many
exciting releases forthcoming from them including THE INDIAN FIGHTER with the
bonus of a Toby voice over....cannot wait till next week.
james Stewart often told the story of how Debra had to wear brown contact lenses
to hide her non Native American blue eyes.
These made her eyes water so much the lenses in one scene slid down onto her cheeks.
Jimmy in a love scene looked up to see that his leading lady suddenly had four eyes!

2:39 AM  
Blogger john k said...

I've been off-line for a few days,and so much happening in Lauraland!
Backtracking I loved your reviews of SUNSET IN THE WEST and WORLD WITHOUT END.
I totally agree that both Blu Ray's look fantastic.
It DOES look as if Laura is on Kino's screeners list so that is wonderful as they
have so many exciting releases planned and along with Warner Archive are the only
USA label to cater for Western fanatics on a regular basis.
I asked about more Republic Westerns on Kino's Facebook page and they said they have
about three more including another Rogers film.They did state that films like
THE LAST COMMAND and A MAN ALONE (which Olive tried to get) have elements in very
poor condition,so that's a shame.
According to imdb Allied Artists wanted Laura faves Sterling Hayden or Frank Lovejoy
for WORLD WITHOUT END but Marlowe agreed to do the film for four times less the
salary of the others.
With all the bad news in the World today there are at least a couple of good things
happening-the re-emergence of the esteemed Blake at Colin's recently and now
Laura reviewing Kino releases.
I live in hope that, that ornery critter Jerry will finally get a Blu Ray player
and enter the wonderful World of high definition...he has a milestone birthday
in October so I hope he's giving folks plenty of hints. :)

3:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John!

Great to hear from you! And thanks for the added background on SWORD IN THE DESERT, BROKEN ARROW, and WORLD WITHOUT END.

I've been able to review a few new Kino releases (still to come: DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE and THE SCAR) and hope to review more in the future! They're doing very exciting things in recent months, with more to come.

Speaking of A MAN ALONE, I saw a post on Home Theater Forum that A MAN ALONE has come out in Germany. The review says "it's not a good DVD by normal standards with a lot of scratches, marks and dirt on the images, but it is certainly watchable." The reviewer also talks about how much he's always loved the film, which made me happy. If only we could get a nice cleaned-up release here...

Thanks for stopping by, John, always great to hear from you!

Best wishes,

11:20 AM  
Blogger john k said...

I binge watched DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE over two nights.
Be sure to listen to the commentary (on five chapters) it's really excellent
and incredibly informative.
The German A MAN ALONE is from Filmjuwelen who are releasing lots of old Republic
titles from old TV prints-they are in pretty bad shape and many don't have English
soundtracks.The fate of many of the Republic A Westerns is in the balance but I hope
Kino can find one or two in a condition that they can release.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good appreciation of this film, Laura and 40 years (!) is a seriously long time between viewings. Anyway, if anything is to be described as worth waiting for, then a Delmer Daves western is probably it.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

John, thanks for the feedback on DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Schlesinger, who did the commentary, when introduced by a mutual friend at UCLA a few weeks ago. Looking forward to the commentary!

Also appreciate the info on the company that put out A MAN ALONE. Crossing my fingers that some Republics will get nice releases here at some point.

Colin, great to hear from you! Thanks so much for your feedback. I guess the fact it was hard for me to go back to for so very long speaks to how profoundly moving Daves & Co.'s work is...as a kid I wasn't prepared for it and it packed a wallop. I was better able to handle it at this point! :)

Best wishes,

9:53 PM  

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