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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Broken Arrow (1950/20th Century Fox)

Broken Arrow (1950/20th Century Fox)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B



Of the three films that mark a major transition in the Hollywood Western, Delmer Davies’ Broken Arrow (1950) does not get as much credit for its boldness and groundbreaking achievements as High Noon or Johnny Guitar, but after watching it for the first time in a while in this nice new upgrade from Fox on DVD deserves a level of critical rediscovery long overdue.


Jimmy Stewart in one of his best roles plays Tom Jeffords, who is willing to meet the controversial and hated Native American figure Cochise (Jeff Chandler) if it means a piece agreement, but a immense atmosphere of hate, entitlement and racism is likely to foil this including his being targeted.  It gets worse when he falls for Sonseeahray (Debra Paget) and she falls in love with him.  This was gutsy beyond belief in 1950 and holds up very well 57 years later, as important about genocide, racism and discrimination as ever.  It challenges the classic Revenge Western Winchester ‘73 as Stewart’s greatest Western and it seems forces from the extreme left and right have their reasons for wanting to assassinate the film.


The film theory community is particularly responsible for this and if you see this film, you’ll be very impressed.  The only thing that dates it are the actors playing Native Americans.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot by cinematographer Ernest Palmer towards the end of an amazing career that began in the 1910s in silent film!  Here he uses three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor and that was the kind where you had to shoot three strips of black and white.  He has worked with Fox often, including on the Charlie Chan series and classics like It Could Happen To You and Blood & Sand.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Mono are fine for their age, including one of the better scores of Hugo Friedhofer.  Can’t wait to see this in HD.

Extras include two brief Fox Movietone News pieces tied to the film (one on the new 50-star U.S. flag, the other the giving of Paget’s “Indian” outfit to a real life Native American), pressbook pages with reproductions of text enlarged for this DVD, poster gallery, “restored credits” offer the fake writer’s name created over the blacklist, the original theatrical trailer for this film and five for other Fox Western DVD releases.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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