Distant Drums

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Distant Drums
Film poster
Directed byRaoul Walsh
Written byNiven Busch
Martin Rackin
Produced byMilton Sperling
StarringGary Cooper
Richard Webb
Mari Aldon
Arthur Hunnicutt
Carl Harbaugh
CinematographySidney Hickox
Edited byFolmar Blangsted
Music byMax Steiner
Color processTechnicolor
United States Pictures
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 25, 1951 (1951-12-25)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.85 million (US rentals)[1]

Distant Drums is a 1951 American Florida Western film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gary Cooper. It is set during the Second Seminole War in the 1840s, with Cooper playing an Army captain who successfully destroys a fort held by Spanish gunrunners and is pursued into the Everglades by a large group of Seminoles. The fort used in the film was the historic Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, and most of the principal photography was shot on location in Florida.

Distant Drums is wildly historically inaccurate, received mixed reviews upon release, and was a moderate financial success. It is notable for being the source of the Wilhelm scream sound effect, which is believed to have been voiced by cast member Sheb Wooley and is used when a supporting character is attacked by an alligator.[2]


Mari Aldon and Richard Webb at the Castillo de San Marcos for the movie premiere.

During the Second Seminole War in 1840, US Army General Zachary Taylor sends naval Lieutenant Tufts and scout Monk to a remote Florida island home, where the reclusive Captain Quincy Wyatt lives with his 5-year-old son. The soldiers' mission is to destroy a remote "old Spanish fort" being used as a base for Spanish gunrunners aiding the Seminoles, and they convince the reluctant Wyatt to lead the small strike force as Taylor had requested.

Wyatt and his men succeed in destroying the fort (the historic Castillo de San Marcos, which was not harmed during filming), but not before rescuing a group of prisoners being held there. One of them, Judy Beckett, develops romantic feelings towards Capt. Wyatt as they flee from a large group of pursuing Seminoles through the Everglades. The journey is perilous, and several of the troops are killed, including one who is attacked by an alligator and dragged under water. Wyatt leads the survivors to his remote homestead, where he is shocked to discover that his home has been burned and his son is missing. Meanwhile, the pursuing Seminoles arrive nearby, and Wyatt challenges their chief, Ocala, to single combat. Wyatt kills him in an underwater fight and the Seminoles flee. Soon after, he discovers that his son had been taken to safety before his home had been attacked and they are reunited.



  1. ^ "Top Box-Office Hits of 1952", Variety, January 7, 1953
  2. ^ Lee, Steve (May 17, 2005). "The WILHELM Scream". hollywoodlostandfound.net. Retrieved June 23, 2009.

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