Wagner's Broken Feather
To put it simply if you have seen James Stewart's "Broken Arrow" then there is a good chance that you will feel Robert Wagner's "White Feather" which came 5 years later is a pale imitation. It may take its lead from the history books but it plays out in an almost identical way to "Broken Arrow" with Josh Tanner befriending a group of American Indians, helping to broker a peace deal whilst falling for Appearing Day the daughter of the Indian Chief. And with Debra Paget, having already played the Indian love interest in "Broken Arrow", finding herself cast as the Indian love interest here it feels even more of a copy. But having said all of this "White Feather" is entertaining in an average way, despite some forced acting from Robert Wagner, and if you haven't seen "Broken Arrow" then the balanced approach to the portrayal of the Cheyenne will make a pleasant change, in fact the movie will probably impress if you haven't seen the superior "Broken Arrow".
Having turned up at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, land surveyor Josh Tanner (Robert Wagner - Broken Lance) finds himself befriending the Cheyenne when he stands up to the scare tactics whilst out riding. It becomes a fruitful friendship as through Tanner the Cavalry are finally able to broker a peace treaty with Chief Broken Hand (Eduard Franz) and at the same time Tanner falls for the Chief's beautiful daughter Appearing Day (Debra Paget - The River's Edge). But not all of the Cheyenne want to make peace and Tanner finds himself in the middle of trouble when Little Dog (Jeffrey Hunter - Sergeant Rutledge) and American Horse (Hugh O'Brian) rebel and declare war on him and the cavalry.
As already mentioned the biggest problem with "White Feather" is that it is far too similar to "Broken Arrow". It may have taken a story from the history books but for the most it plays out in a far too similar manner and so we watch as Tanner ends up becoming friends with the Cheyenne, helping to broker a peace treaty despite mistrust by many of those back at Fort Laramie and falling for the Chief's daughter. Now maybe all of this did really happen, the opening narration informs us that this is a true story but it just really feels like it's trying to imitate "Broken Arrow" in every way possible.
And sadly when it comes to the action side of "White Feather" it also feels copied from other movies. Oh there are some nice moments such as Tanner witnessing the Cheyenne practicing for war and the final confrontation is pretty spectacular, more to do with the sheer number of extras and size of it rather than for the actual action. But for the most the fights and horse chases all feel unoriginal, not bringing anything really new to make them more memorable.
And being unoriginal extends to the fact that Debra Paget who brilliantly played James Stewart's Apache love interest Sonseeahray in "Broken Arrow" finds herself cast as the Cheyenne love interest Appearing Day. Yes Debra Paget is beautiful and plays the part of an Indian squaw quite nicely but surely those in charge of casting must have realised they were setting themselves up for direct comparison by casting her in a like for like role.
But Debra Paget is just one of the casting problems which cause problems for "White Feather" as Robert Wagner is the other. Now it has to be said that Robert Wagner has the perfect matinee idol looks to make Josh Tanner the cliche handsome hero of the movie and at the same time making it believable that Paget's Appearing Day would fall for him, even if does show itself in a very cheesy and poor "Broken Arrow" rip off scene. But Wagner's acting is weak or in fact overly forced and it makes it very unbelievable to the point there are scenes where Tanner is meant to be forging a friendship with the Cheyenne and you find yourself laughing at Wagner's over the top delivery which I suppose is meant to be commanding but ends up being the total opposite. And in a way it's a shame as those actors who played prominent members of the Cheyenne did the job effectively and the one really good thing about "White Feather" is that it does portray American Indians in a more balanced light than many other westerns.
What this all boils down to is that whilst entertaining "White Feather" does feel like an imitation of "Broken Arrow", to the point that at times it feels like a scene for scene remake. It's not as the story comes from the history books but for those who have seen "Broken Arrow" will spot the blindingly obvious similarities and probably like me will feel that "White Feather" is pale in comparison. But despite being similar and some poor acting "White Feather" is entertaining in a very average and obvious sort of way.