Cheyenne Autumn - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cheyenne Autumn Reviews

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January 27, 2019
The best Western movie ever made!
August 25, 2018
Cheyenne Autumn is a strong film, grandly directed and expertly played by a large cast. Over-long, often clichéd and uneven (there are comic interludes complete with cameo performances) Flawed on several levels, Ford's perception of a proud people seen through a white man's eyes is ultimately a highly compelling and deeply personal apologia.
½ July 12, 2016
Initially a very loose and at times unfocused adaptation of the true story from 1878 of Cheyenne escaping the Reno Agency to return to homelands.This was John Ford's final film and he sort of tries to tell the story with greater compassion for Native Americans plight, but with mixed results and several very odd decisions (casting of leads, goofy Wyatt Earp scene that has nothing to do with story, stilted narration, romantic subplot, too much focus on cavalry characters, etc.) . Very flawed, but amazing landscape and certainly a shift from the wooden stereotyped portrayals of previous films.
March 6, 2016
As out of place in the desert as an eagle in a cage.

The Cheyenne's reserve is in the middle of the desert where they can barely survive. The United States as part of their treaty with the Cheyenne are supposed to deliver supplies. When the supplies fail to show, the Cheyenne begin dying off. They begin a March back to their homeland where they plan to settle since the white man broke their treaty. A military sergeant initially assigned to contact the Cheyenne decides to help them on their conquest.

"The trick to being brave is not to be too brave."

John Ford, director of Grapes of Wrath, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach, The Searchers, The Last Hurrah, Mogambo, The Wings of Eagles, and Rio Grande, delivers Cheyenne Autumn. The storyline for this picture is very well done, well written, and worth following. The cast delivers awesome performances and includes James Stewart, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy, Richard Widmark, and Sal Mineo.

"From now on you don't scratch till I itch."

This was recommended to me by Fios so I DVR'd this western classic. This storyline is very interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, bar scenes, script, and sub plots. This isn't an all time great western, but it is worth a viewing for fans of the genre.

"White man's words are lies."

Grade: B
February 13, 2016
Curiously uneven John Ford epic about the Cheyenne's struggles to return to the land they were displaced from. The central plot is interesting, but some casting choices (Sal Mineo and Ricardo Montelban as indians!), just totally needless scenes (yes I'm referring to you Jimmy Stewart) and other curious trivia (it looks like Edward G Robinson refused to do location shots, so we get really bad process shots instead) make this one only slightly passable.
½ February 8, 2016
When I was a kid and bought Mad Magazine, they did one of their great satires about this movie, naming it "Cheyenne Awful." Sums it up. Nice cinematography, but just a mea culpa for John Ford, trying to make amends for his previous portrayals of Indians as brutal savages. Sad swan song for the great director.
August 31, 2015
director john ford's last western film is just ok not on par with say his 'calvary trilogy'.
½ November 25, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
January 23, 2014
A heartbreaking movie with the excellent Widmark.
½ July 6, 2013
Good movie, but too long for nowadays.
May 22, 2013
A good western with an all-star cast
March 29, 2013
A bit melo-dramatic.
½ October 11, 2012
What a Revisionist Western Ought to Be

1964 was smack in the middle of the Western revival that hit television starting in about 1959. In the same year, though, [i]A Fistful of Dollars[/i] came out. It was a time of change for the genre. It was well after [i]The Searchers[/i], which I suppose was John Wayne's first attempt at reconsidering the classic tropes of the Western. John Ford's, too. I think if the revisionist Western had gone this route instead of the [i]Fistful of Dollars[/i], you don't actually like anyone, anti-hero route, I'd like a lot more revisionist Westerns. The whole subgenre was a backlash, it seems to me, a way of recognizing the failings of the movies that came before. This movie chose to look at what was happening to the Indians while we were busy making heroes out of the cavalry, and I think that's a better response than claiming that there weren't any heroes to be had.

In 1878, a band of the Northern Cheyenne decided that they were no longer going to live on the reservation with the Southern Cheyenne. The Northern Cheyenne were from Wyoming. The Southern Cheyenne were from what is now Oklahoma. The Northern Cheyenne went home, leaving the reservation in Indian Country. They are led by their chiefs, Little Wolf (Ricardo Montalban) and Dull Knife (Gilbert Roland). The US government considers their leaving the reservation to be an act of rebellion, but really, it was just a wish to go home and live as they always had. It's easier for the Army to police the Indians if they're in a smaller area, and the speculators can then take their land. It's better for everyone, except the Indians. And so Captain Thomas Archer (Richard Widmark) leads his troops to catch the Cheyenne and bring them back. His love interest, Deborah Wright (Carroll Baker), is a Quaker who goes with the Indians. And Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz (Edward G. Robinson) is the one ultimately responsible for what will happen.

There is also a silly and unnecessary interlude, or intermission, with the citizens of Dodge City, Kansas, freaking right out about what will become of them when the Cheyenne come through and kill them all. Their fear is based on the fact that the Cheyenne did battle the cavalry, and nine cavalrymen were killed. And then, it was exaggerated, and then, everyone along the nineteen hundred miles to Wyoming was afraid that the Cheyenne, who mostly just wanted to go home, would kill them, too. And I get that. But instead, we get this whimsical passage with far-too-old Wyatt Earp (Jimmy Stewart) and Doc Holliday (Arthur Kennedy). (Though it is, perversely, one of the few movies to get it right that Doc was a dentist.) This was supposed to stand in for an intermission, though I'm not completely sure how or why. What it mostly does is kill the tone. I think it was intended to be a tension breaker, but there are some things which work for that and some which just destroy the mood completely.

It's also worth noting that not a one of the credited actors is even Indian. I mean, this film was in the fiftieth year of Iron Eyes Cody's Big Lie, and they didn't even get him. (He was Sicilian and just claimed to be an Indian.) Their Cheyenne chiefs were Mexicans. (As was "Spanish Woman," played by Dolores Del Rio.) They cast Sal Mineo and wouldn't let him speak a word in English, because his accent was so thick that you couldn't believe him as an Indian. According to Tony Hillerman, the "Cheyenne" extras were all Navajo, and the "Cheyenne" dialogue was as well. (Apparently, if you speak Navajo, the movie is much spicier.) John Ford was willing to work on addressing some of the wrongs he'd perpetrated against Indians in his films, but apparently not by going so far as to actually cast them. At that, Sal Mineo is the first Indian character to get billing, and Arthur Kennedy gets billing over some Indian characters much more important to the plot than Doc Holliday. In that they're important to the plot.

Okay, and apparently, Monument Valley stretches from Oklahoma to Wyoming. Fair enough. This whole thing would be done better by other films; this isn't as good as Clint Eastwood's atonement for his own Westerns, [i]Unforgiven[/i]. All of that is true. However, what I think this film does best is show a turning point in how people looked at the West--and show that the American people weren't ready to change that view yet. After all, this movie tanked at the box office. It was long, and the cavalry was compared to the Cossacks. Most of the time, the Indians didn't speak English. This is a complicated film in a lot of ways, and what Americans mostly seemed to want at the time was to sit and watch [i]Gunsmoke[/i] instead. It seems kind of a shame, though I will also say that this is very much a lesser John Ford. One thing this does have in common with both the Westerns which went before and the revisionist Westerns to come was that there isn't much of a happy ending for the Indians.
½ April 19, 2012
John Ford's epic last effort marked a turning point for the classic Western genre, being one of the first movies to take the part of the Indians. In this vein it was soon surpassed by more convinced shots like "Little Big Man". The lack of focus and lengthy narration require some patience from the spectator.
February 17, 2012
VERY strange film... If it were up to me I would've had Ford examined for schizophrenia concerning the Jimmy Stewart "McLintock" comic relief section which fits neither the tone or message of the greater part of the film. It adds nothing but time to a borderline snoozer/slow-mover. I did enjoy seeing Sal Mineo get blown away at the end...
January 17, 2012
A good film with great visuals, but a bit over-long.
September 3, 2011
What the hell was going on in John Fords head?!! This would have been a 4 star rating. Ricardo Montalban and Richard Widmark portray a story that explains the exploitation and degradation of the Cheyenne people, using foreign language and with a very mature angle of no subtitles or hokey accented actors. All goes swimmingly with decent acting, great cinematic vistas and good story telling, UNTIL... about an hour an a half in, we cut to an unrelated story in Dodge City with James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy and John Carradine portraying a comedic card game between Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp which blusters it's unwelcome way through about 20 minutes before jumping sharply back to Widmarks quest to help the Cheyenne tribe. Crazy. I suppose Ford thought that the film needed a moment of light relief. How wrong. What should have been a classic, ruined.
February 17, 2011
Unengaging and stilted for the most part, which is disappointing since the subject of a waylaid tribe trying to find home, while the white folk are wracked with guilt and torn by indecision over the whole thing is fertile ground indeed. The photography is stunning, as would be expected, and there are some really great moments (Malden staggering through the dead bodies is magnificent), but about an hour and 20 minutes into the film, we enter this bizarre comedic segment that is astonishingly wrong-headed and totally inappropriate.

We've just had nearly an hour and a half of serious, dour commentary about racial relationships, the similarities between the Cheyenne and the white folk, as well as their differences, and then we get treated to something out of [i]The Hallelujah Trail[/i], with Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy cameoing as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday for basically no reason whatsoever. All sorts of wacky, Fordian hijinks ensue, and the main plot is abandoned for the next 20 minutes.

I'm all for a bit of levity, but A) it was already being provided by the Johnson/Carey combo (unobrtrusively), and B), you're about halfway through the film. You can't just go ahead and introduce a massive structural and tonal shift that late in the game without cause or preamble. It just about kills the film stone dead. I guess it was the only way that Ford could get in his machismo absurdity and the mutation of legend themes in the most obvious and loud way possible. By comparison, it would be like if the car chase from [i]The Blues Brothers[/i] was spliced into the middle of [i]Schindler's List[/i], or if the Wayne/McLaglen fist-fight from [i]The Quiet Man[/i] was spliced into the middle of [i]The Grapes of Wrath[/i].

Thankfully the film returns its focus to Widmark et al, and Gilbert Roland gets an opportunity to deliver a really excellent performance. And as mentioned, the cinematography is great, and it's a treat to see how Ford handles Super Panavision 70, creating some really striking images. Alex North's score is suitably... loud and roadshowy. All in all, it's not a stinker, but boy does it have issues.
½ December 7, 2010
Amazing landscapes, beautiful direction by John Ford and an interesting message. It lacks a bit of focus though.
June 8, 2010
didn't think much of it the first time i saw it
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