(director: Victor Schertzinger; screenwriter: story by Elizabeth Pickett/Elizabeth Pickett/Julian Johnson; cinematographer: Edward Cronjager; editor: Otto Lovering; music: J. S. Zamecnik; cast: Richard Dix (Wing Foot), Gladys Belmont (Corn Blossom), Jane Novak (Judy Stearns), Larry Steers (John Walton), Tully Mitchell (Navajo Jim), Bernard Siegel (Chahi, medicine man), George Rigas (Notani, Vavajo chief), Augustina Lopez (Granny Yina), Noble Johnson (Pueblo Jim), Philip Anderson (Wing Foot at 9), Lorraine Rivero(Corn Blossom at 9), Joseph Girrard (Commissioner); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Victor Schertzinger; TCM (Paramount); 1929-silent)
“Fittingly sympathetic to the Indians.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An early color film, from the days of silents, with its boarding school part in tint because of budget restrictions. It’s superbly helmed by Victor Schertzinger(“Road to Zanzibar”/”Birth of the Blues”/”The Mikado”), and is fittingly sympathetic to the Indians. It was filmed on location in New Mexico and Arizona, allowing it to use the actual American Indian boarding schools and settlements. The provocative title was meant as a racial slur. Take that Dan Snyder. His football team, called from 1933 the Washington Redskins, sticks with that controversial name. It’s based on Elizabeth Pickett’s story.
Richard Dix stars as the Indian hero, Wing Foot. He’s a Navajo, the son of its proud chief (George Rigas), who at 9 (Philip Anderson, Wing Foot as a child) was forcibly removed from his family by the hostile white Indian agent (Larry Steers) to attend a white man’s boarding school. His teacher is Judith Stearns (Jane Novak), who is engaged to the harsh Indian agent. The gentle teacher disagrees with the cruelty her fiance shows to Wing Foot and breaks off their engagement until he changes his ways. Meanwhile Wing Foot meets Corn Blossom (Lorraine Rivero) at the school and even though she’s from the rival Pueblo tribe, they form a strong bond of friendship. Wing Foot graduates from the boarding school and attends Thorpe college, on an athletic scholarship, in the East. Corn Blossom (Gladys Belmont) after her boarding school graduation, to be near her man, takes an office job in the college town where Wing Foot is a student. Unfortunately Corn Blossom is ordered to return to her Pueblo village and give up her white ways. She’s also told not to see Wing Foot anymore. Meanwhile Wing Foot at a college dance receives either racist remarks that are not intentional or hatred from many of the students, who heap racial insults on him and call him a Redskin. Returning to his Navajo settlement, he’s rejected for no longer following the Navajo traditional ways in medicine and becomes an outcast. Wing Foot moves alone to the desert. He tries to communicate with Corn Blossom through the friendly trading post operator, Navajo Jim (Tully Mitchell), but she warns him that her people will kill him if he visits.
How the resilient Wing Foot rebounds from his woes, gets his woman, finds reconciliation with his tribe and strikes it rich with an oil find, fills the last reel with much melodramatics.
Though a white man plays the Indian and many of the racial attitudes seem outdated, Richard Dix, then 35, gives a powerful, though hardly a believable, performance as a college student. Dix played a Native American before in the silent epic The Vanishing American (1925).
The film was both a critical and box office success.
REVIEWED ON 6/13/2015 GRADE: B