Broken Arrow

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In Broken Arrow the protagonist/narrator says, "Funny, it never occurred to me that an Apache woman would cry over her son like any other woman." This quote brings to mind the lesson Mark Twain has Huckleberry Finn learn from Jim about how "even" black slaves have human feelings just as deep a parental love as whites. An idea perhaps taken for granted now, but revolutionary then and there (19th century America).

  • ... a great western classic that broke new ground when it was released in 1950. Delmer Daves directs this film with an understanding and empathy for the Native American Indians who slowly watched a sea of pioneers and soldiers take over the territories that were once their exclusive domain and livelihood. By 1870 a bloody battle led by the Apache leader Cochise (Jeff Chandler) had been raging in Arizona for over ten years. Tom Jeffords (James Stewart), an ex-army scout, discovers a wounded Apache youth and while the boy attempts to stab him, Tom stays with him until his wounds are healed. When a party of Apaches comes to fetch the youth, they allow Jeffords to live and he is amazed to discover they are not "animals." The incident makes such an impact on Jeffords...he learns the Apache customs and language and with a guide to show him the way, he rides into the camp of Cochise. After a while a strong bond is formed...Cochise allows the mail to go through and eventually there is talk of a peace treaty. This was one of the first westerns to show that evil and deception occur on both sides...not all Indians are bad nor are they all good...they are no different from the white men. James Stewart is great but it is Jeff Chandler as Cochise who steals the film.[1]

Plot

Jeffords sees vultures, follows them to find a wounded Apache boy. He risks being stabbed to give the boy water from his own canteen, then removes the buckshot from the boy's back. He is then captured by Apaches who agree to let him go but recapture him when a party of white prospectors approaches. They kill some prospectors, but capture and torture others as Jeffords watches. Released, Jeffords tells his story in town, which provokes a quarrel which ends without gunplay only because Jeffords is tired of the killing. Jeffords turns down a scouting job, deciding on his own to take advanced lessons in Apache language and culture so he can meet Cochise (the Apache leader) and request safe passage for the U.S. mail. He rides into the Apache stronghold, watched all the way by armed Apaches, and his meeting with Cochise goes well. He returns to town and announces the agreement and even bets $300 that the first five mail riders to be sent out will return safely.

Points to ponder

This movie asks the viewer to consider what it means to be "civilized" or "savage".

See Also

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