Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Apache Chief (Lippert, 1949)


A bit creaky


Harold Ueberroth was a photographic model in Chicago whose good looks got him work in Hollywood in the late 1930s, as Alan Curtis. He won the third-billed part after Bogart and Lupino in Warners’ High Sierra, led as Franz Schubert in New Wine, and was quite popular all through the 40s. He didn’t do many Westerns: he headed the cast as Emmett Dalton in Universal’s The Daltons Ride Again in 1945 but it was rather downhill after that. He descended to two very low-budget oaters for Lippert, co-starring with Ann Savage in Renegade Girl and leading in Apache Chief, his last Western. It was almost his last film: after Apache Chief it was off to Europe to do a couple of historical dramas. He died after a routine operation in 1953, aged only 41.



To be brutally frank, Apache Chief was rather scraping the barrel. Directed by Frank McDonald, who had worked for most of the studios at one time or another, grinding out Gene Autry and Roy Rogers oaters at Republic especially, and written, clunkily, by producers George D Green and Leonard S Picker (you probably say, who?), it was a 59-minute black & white second feature shot up at Corriganville and made on a shoestring. It used Lippert’s trumpeted ‘Garutso Balanced Lens’ which supposedly gave a 3D effect but that certainly isn’t noticeable now.


It says it has a “cast of thousands”. That’s simply a lie.


There’s a rather annoying overly-sonorous voiceover narration by Reed Hadley which emphasizes the wrongness of taking the warpath against the white man. It opens with an old Apache talking to a young boy, then the screen goes all fuzzy, you know how they do, and we go into flashback mode to tell the tale.


Talking of Fuzzy, he (Fuzzy Knight) provides the comic relief (rather needed, it must be said) as an army sergeant, boasting of his deep knowledge of Indians while clearly being entirely ignorant of the subject.


Lt. Tom Neal, Col. Roy Gordon and Sgt. Fuzzy Knight


It’s one of those standard plots in which a wise and statesmanlike chief, this time Trevor Bardette, wants peace with the White Eyes but has to deal with a young firebrand – Russell Hayden as Black Wolf – who is all for the warpath.


Firebrand Russ wants the warpath


Chief Big Crow (Bardette) is advised sagely by his medicine man Mohaska (good old Francis McDonald) who has a pretty daughter, Watona (Carol Thurston, small parts in seven Westerns) who is lusted after by both bad guy Black Wolf and by the chief’s son, noble and brave Young Eagle (Curtis). Which one shall win her hand? Well, I’ll give you three guesses.



These Apaches are therefore played by white actors, as was normal, of course.


There’s a lot of plot crammed into the hour, with much skullduggery and not a few hand-to-hand combats. Black Wolf murders the peaceable chief and urges war. “We will avenge Sand Creek,” he says. Why the Apaches would want revenge for an 1864 attack on a Cheyenne village isn’t quite clear.


There’s a colorized version these days in which the Apaches have sashes and headbands in a rather fetching shade of salmon pink.


The cavalry colonel (Roy Gordon) only has six men in his regiment, budget constraints being what they were. Oh well. Second-billed Tom Neal is the lieutenant.


Rodd Redwing is an Indian, grandly billed as Roderic Redwing.


The whole thing creaks, I fear, as it plods along. At the end the screen goes all fuzzy again and we return to the old gent spinning tales to the young ‘un. The End.


In German it was Adlerauge, der tapfere Sioux. Well, Apaches, Sioux, they’re all Indians, ain’t they? I mean, Sie sind alle Indianer, nicht wahr?


How can I put this? I wouldn’t bother.




7 Responses

  1. how do you manage to still dig out long forgotten films again and again remains a mystery to me… Finally the tribes and historic events mix up was not a pure marketing invention by the European distributors… The US producers or script writers did seem to have no hinibitions either in having Apaches revenging Sand Creek (they surely had heard of it by reading the Pony Express stolen letters…) when for the Germans the Apaches were Sioux (it happens in one of your recent post where the Sioux became Apaches in the French version unless it’s the other way around.) The Sioux were possibly more appreciated in Germany because of Karl May’s novels… For once the French lack of Iimagination staying with Le Chef apache… (or maybe the marketing budget was close to zero !?)

    1. I trawl the depths.
      You could be right with your Karl May hypothesis but I must say I always thought Winnetou was an Apache, and Old Shatterhand his blood brother.

  2. You are absolutely right, I stayed confused having talked a lot with a german guy once in Denver who was truly in love with the Indians of the Great Plains (he was organizing weddings for German couples on the Standing Rock and Pine Ridge reservations… He told me his passion came from his K.May’s readings when he was a little boy…

  3. I have seen Apache Chief, in the early fifties it was all over local television, and I remember it being almost okay.

  4. Several years ago, I went on a tour of the Grand Canyon with a German guide, who was drawn to the area by the Winnetou movies, which he still loved. I’ve been meaning to watch one, just out of curiosity, as I’ve seen them pop up on Youtube. I’m no fan of Lex Barker, but they can’t be any worse than Apache Chief.

    1. I’ve never actual read a Karl May or bothered with a movie version but it might be worth a try, for interest.

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