O'Hara & Chandler's Seminole Western
On one hand "War Arrow" is a generic 1950s western, we have a fort, we have the cavalry, we have Indian trouble and of course we have romance. Yet "War Arrow" packs a lot in, all of which is worked into a well thought out storyline which also takes in issues of jealousy, pig headedness and double crosses. So whilst by the time it works its way towards the ending you know what the ending will be, what has happened along the way has been entertaining, to the point you remember "War Arrow" not for the action or for the performances from Jeff Chandler and Maureen O'Hara but all the different stories it manages to build in.
Having been sent West to assist Col. Jackson Meade (John McIntire - Horizons West) and his fort with the trouble from the Kiowa Indians, Maj. Howell Brady (Jeff Chandler - The Battle at Apache Pass) is met with resentment from Meade who fears the handsome young Major is about to usurp him. He's even less happy when he not only sees that Brady is getting friendly with the recently widowed Elaine Corwin (Maureen O'Hara - The Quiet Man) but he has plans to enlist the help of the peace loving Seminole Indians to help in the war with the Kiowa. But having got his way and made a deal with Chief Maygro (Henry Brandon) to supply the Seminole people with food in return for their help things turn sour as not only does Meade renege on the deal but they discover that the Kiowa are getting help from someone with insider knowledge and are preparing to attack the fort.
So as already mentioned on one hand "War Arrow" is very cliche and for the first 10 or 15 minutes as Maj. Brady and his 2 Sergeants make their way to the Fort you get a certain amount of familiarity. We get the first inklings of romance as there appears to be some sort of spark between Maj. Brady and the recently widowed Elaine Corwin and we learn that the Fort is unable to deal with the Kiowa Indians running rampage over the territory. But whilst this is quite cliche it adds to this basic set up with there being some form of resentment as Col. Jackson Meade feels that Brady is going to push him out off his command. And you get the introduction to the contentious issue of Brady wanting to train up Seminole Indians to help in the fight against the Kiowa.
This blend of cliche and clever continues through out "War Arrow" as it weaves together quite a nice storyline. Having cut a deal with the Seminole's and trained them to fight, Brady then discovers that Col. Meade has reneged on the deal to supply their families with food. And then you also get the romance between Brady and Elaine Corwin who feels that her husband isn't dead and has faked his own death, deserting the fort. It means that whilst there are plenty of scenes which feel like they could have come out of any western the various stories build up nicely so "War Arrow" never becomes just another completely obvious western.
All of which means that when the ending comes, and to be honest it is nothing less than expected, you don't mind that there is no real twist. And you don't mind because what has gone on before, all the different stories, the jealousy, treachery, danger and romance have combined to make for a decent, well worked story.
Now continuing on with the theme of being cliche the characters and performances are nothing more than you expect from a 1950s western. Jeff Chandler is tall, handsome and heroic as Maj. Brady, an honest guy who is a man of honour, whilst Maureen O'Hara is the epitome of loveliness as Elaine Corwin. There maybe no real spark of romance on show but Chandler and O'Hara work well enough to make you champion their romance.
Elsewhere Noah Beery Jr. takes on the role of the comedy cowboy or at least as Sgt. Augustus Wilks the one who ends up being amusing through his wise cracks and mishaps. And John McIntire does a reasonable job of delivering the jealousy of Col. Jackson Meade as he makes life hard for Brady. Yet ironically the actress who ends up making the biggest impression is the one who has the least to do yet Suzan Ball as Seminole Indian Avis is not only jaw droppingly beautiful but makes her rebellious character wonderful to watch, seductive and feisty stealing every single scene she is in.
What this all boils down to is that "War Arrow" is an enjoyable western which on first hand may look like just another 1950's western but turns out to be more. It manages to take all the cliche western elements you expect but strings them together in a well worked storyline which on top of having Indian trouble, action and romance also has jealousy and treachery to add more layers. It's a case that there is much to "War Arrow" which is forgettable and to be honest it is ultimately an average western but an average western which you remember for the story rather than the action or for the performances of its stars Jeff Chandler and Maureen O'Hara.