This 1950 western is known for its sympathetic portrayal of American Indians, unlike many of the films in the genre before and after its release. The film is based on a 1947 historical novel "Blood Brother" by Elliott Arnold which also became the basis for a television series.. Delmer Davis directed this film, in addition to directing another famous western, "The 3:10 to Yuma" in 1957 which I saw a few days ago.
"Broken Arrow" tells the story of the Apache and their famed leader Cochise and the treaty he made with the United States in 1872. It is narrated by Tom Jeffords, played by James Stewart, a historical character who helped negotiate the peace. Jeff Chandler played Cochise. Jeffords is a main character in the film as well as providing the occasional narrative voice.
The film shows the gradual development of an unlikely friendship between Cochise and Jeffords. In the process, Cochise is strongly portrayed as a leader of his people and as a man of honor. The Apache too are portrayed positively as the fight to protect their land and their way of life. Jeffords is shown as courageously opening a path to negotiation between the Apache and the Federal government. In the process he falls in love with and marries a young Apache woman, Sonseensaray, performed by 15-year old Debra Paget. This part of the story is fictitious. Some of the famous scenes in the movie, such as Apache wedding ceremony performed in the film or Cochise breaking an arrow as a symbol of peace are not based on historical fact but they are effective and moving in the context of the film and its theme. The film shows the trust that gradually develops between Cochise and Jeffords which ultimately allows for an armistice and a fragile treaty. The treaty holds in the face of provocations from dissatisfied whites and a renegade group of Apache led by Geronimo, played by Jay Silverheels.
The movie is highly emotional in its depiction of and sympathy for the Apache, in its story of the relationship between Jeffords and Cochise,and in the romance. The film is set in the Arizona mountains and desert and in the town of Tuscon, with realistic and effective cinematography and technicolor.
"Broken Arrow" received a Globe Award for Best Film Promoting International Understanding for its story of peace and cooperation between the Apache people and the United States, and it has become a famous film in the western genre. I have been watching westerns during the on-going pandemic as I find this genre still has something to contribute to Americans understanding of themselves.I was moved greatly by this film and was glad to find it and see it at last.