Bugles in the Afternoon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bugles in the Afternoon
Original film poster
Directed by Roy Rowland
Produced by William Cagney
Written by Daniel Mainwaring
Harry Brown
Ernest Haycox (novel)
Starring Ray Milland
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Wilfred M. Cline
Edited by Thomas Reilly
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • March 4, 1952 (1952-03-04) (New York City)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Box office $1.5 million (North America)[1]

Bugles in the Afternoon is a 1952 Western feature film starring Ray Milland, based on the novel by Ernest Haycox.[2] The story features the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It was filmed in Technicolor and released by Warner Bros..


A rivalry between U.S. cavalry captains results in Kern Shafter being demoted and disgraced for striking Edward Garnett with a saber. Kern claimed to be defending the honor of his fiancee.

Kern drifts for a while and is attracted to Josephine Russell, a woman he meets as they are both waiting to board a stagecoach to Fargo. When they reach Bismarck in the Dakota territory, Kern heads to Fort Abraham Lincoln and enlists in the 7th Cavalry. He is assigned to a company headed by an old friend and former sergeant major, Capt. Myles Moylan, and assigned the rank of sergeant. He is pleased until he learns that Capt. Garnett is there at Fort Lincoln as well; he is the commander of a different company, but is referred to as "top dog" by Moylan.

Kern makes a friend named Donovan, a private. Donovan was formerly a sergeant until he punched a sergeant major. The two of them are assigned to investigate the murder of local miners by Sioux tribesmen, leading to a dangerous encounter. When these risky missions continue, Capt. Moylan begins to realize that Garnett is deliberately putting Kern at risk. Moylan puts into motion an effort to clear Shafter.

The feud escalates when Shafter discovers that Garnett also has romantic designs on Josephine. Unaware of the history between the two men, or of Garnett's true character, she feels that Kern should be dealing with issues more reasonably; she is angered when Kern strikes Garnett.

The soldiers leave with General George Armstrong Custer to do battle with the Sioux. Garnett deliberately puts Kern, Donovan, and another soldier in danger by sending the three on a scouting mission, claiming there are no Sioux warriors in the vicinity. The three see their company fall back as they witness the Sioux in their scouting area. After his friend Donovan is fatally wounded, Kern is able to get back to his command, only to witness Custer and his own command killed in battle. Garnett pursues Kern during a different skirmish with the Sioux, and the two scuffle until Kern is knocked out by Garnett. When Garnett is about to drop a large rock on Kern, a Sioux warrior fatally shoots Garnett. Capt. Moylan arrives and kills the warrior, and informs Kern he saw the end of the fight with Garnett. The two then regroup with their command to fight the Sioux. Kern is shot during this battle.

Kern and Moylan survive. Thanks to Moylan, Kern's reputation and rank of captain are restored and Josephine now sees Kern as the man she wants.


Ray Milland ... Kern Shafter
Helena Carter ... Josephine Russell
Hugh Marlowe ... Capt. Edward Garnett
Forrest Tucker ... Donovan
Barton MacLane ... Capt. Myles Moylan
George Reeves ... Lt. Smith


Parts of the film were shot in Johnson Canyon, Long Canyon, Asay Creek, Kanab Canyon, Aspen Mirror Lake, and Strawberry Valley in Utah.[3]


  1. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors, not gross box office takings.
  2. ^ 'Bugles in the Afternoon' New York Times film review
  3. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874. 

External links[edit]