The Last Wagon (1956 film)
|The Last Wagon|
|Directed by||Delmer Daves|
|Produced by||William B. Hawks|
|Written by||James Edward Grant
Gwen Bagni Gielgud
|Music by||Lionel Newman|
|Edited by||Hugh S. Fowler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$1,500,000 (US rentals)|
The Last Wagon is a 1956 western film starring Richard Widmark. It was co-written and directed by Delmer Daves and tells a story set during the American Indian Wars: the survivors of an Indian massacre must rely on a man wanted for several murders to lead them out of danger.
Sheriff Bull Harper (George Mathews) is taking "Comanche" Todd (Richard Widmark), a white man who has lived most of his life among the Indians, to be tried for the murder of Harper's three brothers. The pair join a wagon train led by Colonel Normand (Douglas Kennedy). Harper's brutal treatment of Todd causes friction with some members of the wagon train. When the sheriff beats a lad for giving Todd a pipe to smoke, Todd takes advantage of the distraction to kill his tormentor with a dropped axe.
Then, while some of the young people sneak away for a late night swim, the Apaches kill everyone else. Todd miraculously survives a fall when the wagon to which he is tied is thrown off a cliff. The Apaches are gathering to avenge the massacre of their own women and children by the whites. It is up to Todd to lead the six other survivors to safety, despite the distrust of some of them. Along the way, he and Jenny (Felicia Farr) fall in love.
Despite saving a small U.S. cavalry detachment from an ambush, Todd is recognized and brought to trial. He reveals that all four Harpers raped and murdered his Comanche wife and killed his two young boys. General Howard takes pity on him and places him in the permanent "custody" of Jenny.
- Richard Widmark as Comanche Todd
- Felicia Farr as Jenny
- Susan Kohner as Jolie Normand, Colonel Normand's half-Indian daughter
- Tommy Rettig as Billy, Jenny's younger brother
- Stephanie Griffin as Valinda Normand, Jolie's racist white half-sister
- Ray Stricklyn as Clint, another survivor
- Nick Adams as Ridge, one of those suspicious of Todd
- Carl Benton Reid as Gen. Oliver O. Howard
- Douglas Kennedy as Col. Normand
- George Mathews as Sheriff Bull Harper
- James Drury as Lt. Kelly, leader of the cavalry detachment
- Ken Clark as Sergeant
- Timothy Carey as Cole Harper
- Juney Ellis as Mrs. Clinton
- Abel Fernandez as Apache Medicine Man
- George Ross as Sarge
The film was shot on location in Sedona, AZ, at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. Director Delmer Daves described the difficulty he had in finding a pristine location for the film, as his previous western, Broken Arrow (1950), had popularized the region. The film suffered some jarring continuity errors that somehow were not noticed in the preview theatre before the film was released. During the last third of the film, Tommy Rettig's hair goes from being long and fair, with a fringe, to being short back and sides and dark and brushed back and then back again on two occasions, once in the same scene.
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p250
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957