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Cheyenne Autumn Details


John Ford's last western film, Cheyenne Autumn was allegedly produced to compensate for the hundreds of Native Americans who had bitten the dust in Ford's earlier films (that was the director's story, anyway). Set in 1887, the film recounts the defiant migration of 300 Cheyennes from their reservation in Oklahoma territory to their original home in Wyoming. They have done this at the behest of chiefs Little Wolf (Ricardo Montalban) and Dull Knife (Gilbert Roland), peaceful souls who have been driven to desperate measures because the US government has ignored their pleas for food and shelter. Since the Cheyennes' trek is in defiance of their treaty, Captain Thomas Archer (Richard Widmark), who agrees with the Indians in principle, reluctantly leads his troops in pursuit of the tribe. While there was never any intention to shed blood, the white press finds it politically expedient to distort the Cheyennes' action into a declaration of war. Thanks to the cruelties of such chauvinistic whites as Captain Oscar Wessels (Karl Malden), the Cheyennes are forced to defend themselves--and whenever Indians take arms against whites in the 1880s, it's usually misrepresented as a massacre. Only the intervention of US secretary of the interior Carl Schurz (Edward G. Robinson) prevents the hostilities from erupting into wholesale bloodshed. Based on a novel by Mari Sandoz, Cheyenne Autumn is a cinematic elegy--not only for the beleaguered Cheyennes, but for John Ford's fifty years in pictures. It is weakest when arbitrarily throwing in a wearisome romance between Richard Widmark and pacifistic schoolmarm Carroll Baker, who out of sympathy for the Indians has joined them in their 1500-mile westward journey. When the Warner Bros. people decided that the film ran too long, they chopped out the wholly unnecessary but very funny episode involving a poker-obsessed Wyatt Earp (James Stewart). Contrary to popular belief, this episode was included in the earliest non-roadshow prints of Cheyenne Autumn; the scene was excised only when the film went into its second and third runs in 1966 (it has since been restored). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:October 3, 1964


Awarded by
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Gilbert Roland Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture 1964 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences William H. Clothier Best Color Cinematography 1964 Nominee


Richard Widmark
as Capt. Thomas Archer
Carroll Baker
as Deborah Wright
James Stewart
as Wyatt Earp
Edward G. Robinson
as Carl Schurz
Karl Malden
as Capt. Oscar Wessels
Sal Mineo
as Red Shirt
Dolores Del Rio
as Spanish Woman
Ricardo Montalban
as Little Wolf
Gilbert Roland
as Dull Knife
Arthur Kennedy
as Doc Holliday
Patrick Wayne
as Second Lieutenant Scott
Elizabeth Allen
as Guinevere Plantagenet
John Carradine
as Maj. Jeff Blair
Victor Jory
as Tall Tree
Mike Mazurki
as 1st Sgt. Stanislaus Wichowsky
George O'Brien
as Maj. Braden
Sean McClory
as Dr. O'Carberry
Judson Pratt
as Mayor Dog Kelly
Carmen D'Antonio
as Pawnee woman
Ken Curtis
as Joe
Ted Mapes
Philo McCullough
as Man
Ralph Truman
as Duke De Castro
Ben Johnson
as Trooper Plumtree
Shug Fisher
as Skinny
William Henry
as Infantry Captain
Bing Russell
as Telegrapher
Walter Reed
as Lt. Peterson
Charles Seel
as Newspaper Publisher
James O'Hara
Willis B. Bouchey
as Colonel
Danny Borzage
Harry Carey, Jr.
as Trooper Smith
Sam Harris
as Townsman
Duncan Lamont
as The Viceroy
Carleton Young
as Aide to Carl Schurz
James Flavin
as Sergeant of the Guard
Elena Altieri
as Duchess De Castro
Denver Pyle
as Sen. Henry
Jeannie Epper
Anna Magnani
as Camilla
Chuck Roberson
as Platoon sergeant
John Qualen
as Svenson
Odoardo Spadaro
as Don Antonio
Nancy Hsueh
as Little Bird


John Ford
John Ford
Ginette Doynel
Jack Kirkland
James R. Webb
William H. Clothier
Claude Renoir
Alex North
Composer (Music Score)
Alex North
Musical Direction/Supervision
Mario Serandrei
Otho Lovering
Richard Day
Art Director
Darrell Silvera
Set Designer
Ralph Webb
Special Effects
Norman Pringle