Indian scout Tom Jeffords (James Stewart
) is sent out to stem the war between the Whites and Apaches in the late 1870s. He learns (through an uncomfortably close encounter) that the Indians kill only to protect themselves, or out of retaliation for white atrocities. Befriending the sagacious Apache leader Cochise (Jeff Chandler), Jeffords ensures safe passage for white mail-carriers through Indian territory. As he becomes closer to his Native American "brothers," Jeffords falls in love with and weds a pretty Apache girl (Debra Paget). This being a 1950 film (miscegenation was frowned upon by the Production Code), you can guess what happens to her. Jeffords wants to avenge his bride's death at the hands of white renegades, but it is the so-called "savage" Cochise who advises him not to. Having learned much from each other, Jeffords and Cochise symbolize the white/Indian detente with the traditional broken arrow. This superb, non-condescending film has been criticized in some circles because of the alleged depiction of Cochise as an Indian "Uncle Tom," and because actor Jeff Chandler was not a genuine Native American. Nonetheless, Broken Arrow
stands the test of time far more successfully than the later, politically correct Dances with Wolves
. In 1956, Broken Arrow
was adapted into a TV series starring John Lupton as Jeffords and Michael Ansara as Cochise.