(director: Robert Wise; screenwriters: Casey Robinson/based on a story by Frank S. Nugent and Curtis Kenyon; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: Hugo Friedhofer; cast: Joseph Cotten (Col. Clay Tucker), Linda Darnell (Elena Kenniston), Jeff Chandler (Maj. Henry Kenniston), Cornel Wilde (Capt. Mark Bradford), Dale Robertson (Lem), Jay C. Flippen (Sgt. Terrance Duey), Noah Beery (Cy Davis), Harry von Zell (Ephraim Strong), John Sands (Lt. Adams), Arthur Hunnicutt (Sgt. Pickens); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Casey Robinson; 20th Century Fox; 1950)

The Western has a thoughtful historical premise and makes the most of it by the solid direction of Wise.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Indian-fighting Western set during the Civil War. It’s directed in a satisfying fast pace by Robert Wise(“Executive Suite”/”The Set-Up”/”Run Silent Run Deep”), whobased it on a story by Frank S. Nugent and Curtis Kenyon. ProducerCasey Robinson writes the screenplay. The b/w pic has good location shots by cinematographer Leon Shamroy; it was shot in New Mexico at San Ildefonso Pueblo, a community of Tewa Indians just outside of Santa Fe.

The pic opens with the following statement: “On December 8, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Special Proclamation, whereby Confederate Prisoners of War might gain their freedom, provided they would join the Union Army to defend the frontier West against the Indians.” It then turns to a prison camp at Rock Island, Illinois, in the autumn of 1864, where the wounded Union camp commander, Captain Mark Bradford (Cornel Wilde), offers 43 Confederate prisoners the chance to be paroled on a full pardon if they agree to be recruited into the Union army to fight Indians out West. They’re told they would never have to fight Rebs. War hero Confederate Colonel Clay Tucker (Joseph Cotten), who rode with Jeb Stuart, agrees after taking a vote where he broke the tie, and is commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. Tucker sees this as an opportunity to escape almost certain death in the harsh prison and live to fight another day for the South. The unit joins the 3rd Cavalry, stationed at the remote Fort Thorn, New Mexico. The fort is commanded by the embittered Major Henry Kenniston (Jeff Chandler), who escaped a Reb prison camp and walks with a limp sustained in battle. Both Tucker and Kenniston are honorable soldiers, which makes it easier for the Major to accept Tucker even though he doesn’t trust him and resents the Rebs for killing his officer brother in a major battle. Elena Kenniston (Linda Darnell) is the hottie Spanish widow of the Major’s brother, who is waiting at the fort to receive an armed patrol to escort her back to her Monterey, California, family home and small vineyard. The war-weary Elena realizes the Major loves her even if he doesn’t say so, as does Bradford. But she remains elusive to both, only talking openly with the Colonel.

The rousing Western has a thoughtful historical premise and makes the most of it by the solid direction of Wise. It has an action-packed Indian attack on the fort, that was precipitated when the hateful Major unnecessarily killed the chief’s son.

Chandler’s acting is wooden as usual, and the overwrought melodramatic love triangle peters out. It ends with the Darnell character moving onto her home and telling the Colonel, who just lost his home in Georgia to the advancing army of General Sherman, that “It will all seem better tomorrow.”