Whose West Is It Anyway?: “Tomahawk” (1951)



RED MAN’S BURDEN: Red Cloud (John War Eagle) may be the most important real-life historical figure represented in “Tomahawk”, but his people’s concerns become secondary to the more formulaic Hollywood embellishments of romance and personal revenge. 

        “Tomahawk”  (1951)

    George Sherman’s “Tomahawk” is one of those colorful  1950’s western films of surprising quantity that are (in theory) sympathetic to the American Indian (in this casetomahawkPOS the Sioux) as victims of duplicitous double talk from the government while altogether maintaining an unwavering mindfulness of the importance of thrill inducing sporadically inserted cavalry charging action.

    However, one can’t help but sense the earnestness of the movie’s initially asserted anti-establishment intentions by the almost ludicrously pompous gravitas with which the narrator imparts his information, not unlike those occasions in Cecil B. DeMille epics when the filmmaker attempted to masquerade the hoarier aspects of his epics by dubbing over them with portentous voiceovers; the equivalent of artistic spackle, though in this case, the effort is slightly undercut as the narrator sounds suspiciously similar to Criswell from Ed Wood films. This attempted earnestness often acts as a dampening agent, inducing an unnecessary wet blanket on an already formulaic but nevertheless competently told yarn, which manages to maintain an adequate level of interest in the ultimate outcome of the tenuous frontier tensions between clashing cultures, while seriously shortchanging on the far more interesting historical facts. If there are undeniable pleasures to be taken from the film (there are a few), they are dependent on the professional execution of elements that have become comfortably familiar in westerns rather than by any remarkable extension of said tropes.

To read the complete review, click the following link to:  https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/nights-at-the-st-george-theater/



About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in Drive-In Movies, History, Movies, racism, Romance, westerns, women, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Whose West Is It Anyway?: “Tomahawk” (1951)

  1. beetleypete says:

    I am sure I must have seen this with my parents, (maybe eight or nine years after its release, as I wasn’t born in 1951) as I recall Yvonne’s lips as an early childhood fantasy. But all the westerns at that time tend to blur in my memory, as my Dad took us to see all of those shown locally.
    It’s true that we accepted such ‘historical’ nonsense as ‘fact’, especially in Britain, where we knew no better at the time. I know that I always hoped that all the ‘nasty Indians’ would get killed.
    Fortunately, I grew up.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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