Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo, Dolores del Rio, Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland, Arthur Kennedy, Patrick Wayne, Elizabeth Allen, John Carradine, Victor Jory, Mike Mazurki, George O'Brien, Sean McClory, Judson Pratt, Carmen D'Antonio, Ken Curtis, James Stewart, Edward G. Robinson
Written by: James R. Webb, based on a novel by Mari Sandoz
Directed by: John Ford
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 154
Date: 10/03/1964

Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Long Walk

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Ford's penultimate film brings up some of the themes explored in The Searchers, but in a more surface manner. In the late 19th century a band of weary Cheyenne, feeling betrayed by the U.S. government, begins a long walk of some 1500 miles from their desolate "reservation" back to their homeland. Quaker schoolmarm Deborah Wright (the sensuous Carroll Baker), who has been teaching the Cheyenne children, decides to travel with them. Capt. Thomas Archer (a terrific Richard Widmark) of the U.S. Cavalry is charged with bringing them back, but he's also in love with the schoolmarm. It's slightly preachy; most of the "good" characters side with the Cheyenne, while the others are depicted as racist, cowardly and stupid. For some reason, Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy appear in the middle of the film as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in an amusing and enjoyable, but ultimately pointless interlude. Sal Mineo, Dolores Del Rio and Ricardo Montalban are among the actors playing Cheyenne. Like most of the hits of its day, it was presented as a true "epic," with an overture and an intermission, which might explain the Wyatt Earp sequence (it helped pad out the running time to more "epic" proportions). Likewise, Edward G. Robinson makes a "star cameo" late in the game to add more sparkle. But aside from all this nonsense, it never loses its John Ford touch. William H. Clothier was nominated for an Oscar for his giant, color, widescreen cinematography.

DVD Details: Warner Home Video released the DVD in 2006. It includes a commentary track by Ford biographer and SFSU cinema professor Joseph McBride, a featurette and a trailer.

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