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Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

4:34 | Trailer
The Cheyenne, tired of broken U.S. government promises, head for their ancestral lands but a sympathetic cavalry officer is tasked to bring them back to their reservation.


John Ford


Mari Sandoz (suggested by "Cheyenne Autumn"), James R. Webb (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Widmark ... Capt. Thomas Archer
Carroll Baker ... Deborah Wright
Karl Malden ... Capt. Wessels
Sal Mineo ... Red Shirt
Dolores del Rio ... Spanish Woman (as Dolores Del Rio)
Ricardo Montalban ... Little Wolf
Gilbert Roland ... Dull Knife
Arthur Kennedy ... Doc Holliday
James Stewart ... Wyatt Earp
Edward G. Robinson ... Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz
Patrick Wayne ... 2nd Lt. Scott
Elizabeth Allen ... Guinevere Plantagenet
John Carradine ... Maj. Jeff Blair
Victor Jory ... Tall Tree
Mike Mazurki ... Senior First Sergeant


When the government agency fails to deliver even the meager supplies due by treaty to the proud Cheyenne tribe in their barren desert reserve, the starving Indians have taken more abuse than it's worth and break it too by embarking on a 1,500 miles journey back to their ancestral hunting grounds. US Cavalry Capt. Thomas Archer is charged with their retrieval, but during the hunt grows to respect their noble courage, and decides to help them. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


1,500 miles of heroism and incredible adventure! See more »


Drama | History | Western


PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The striped neckerchiefs shown are historically correct. Cavalry colors are yellow, artillery are red, infantry are light blue, medical corps are burgundy. See more »


The language used by the Cheyenne in this movie is not Cheyenne. It is Navajo. Cheyenne is an Algonquian language, whereas Navajo is Athabaskan (Na Dene), and they do not sound even remotely similar. This is explainable, however, by the fact that this film was shot on the Navajo Nation. See more »


Capt. Thomas Archer: Remember, Mr. Scott, the trick to being brave is not to be too brave.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original premiere, in Cinerama, ran a full 170 minutes. The film was cut by fifteen minutes following this premiere. The missing 15 minutes is presumed lost forever (check your attics). The only version now available is a VHS that runs around 155 minutes. See more »


Featured in Reel Injun (2009) See more »


The Yellow Rose of Texas
Played on the banjo during the saloon
See more »

User Reviews

John Ford's attempt at making history...
19 July 2004 | by jlpicard1701ESee all my reviews

Granted, it might not be a glorious John Ford movie as his earlier works, but in this one attempt one might recognize the soul of the director, a troubled soul.

He had always depicted the native Americans as being merely a detail in American history, and now, having reached the sunset and the winter of his own life - and probably some wisdom as well, he comes out in the open and seems to ask for forgiveness.

It is a touching attempt at redemption and as such it should be considered. Ford was deeply religious, even though he never openly admitted it and here it shows.

Of course it is at times naive, at times superficial and at times kitsch, but this is also the the true and touching opening of an old man who has realized that his own world has changed and the views of the people have changed.

He is desperately trying to get in touch and in synchrony with this new world and admits the faults and mistakes that some of his forefathers have committed against defenseless and hopeless people.

This movie is probably more his own introspection before his death and at the same time is the heritage he wanted to leave us before his demise.

This is why I wouldn't be so harsh as to trash it so swiftly.

Even though somewhat naive in its views, the story of the Lakota/Dakota tribes being deported and so shamelessly persecuted by the American Government in those far away days is absolutely true.

It is a piece of American history that so many Americans would like to see being forgotten but occasionally pops up to hunt us as a reminder that any civilization can produce unspeakable horrors, especially when it feels socially superior.

What I would mostly criticize is the fact that all American native parts were cast with other minorities, especially of Hispanic origin (Gilbert Roland and Ricardo Montalban, two of the best and finest actors of Latin origin who, unfortunately for those years, were so many times misused and typecast).

But all this does not come as a surprise if one consider that certain racial practices were still in effect in those days. We are four years away from 1968 and Martin Luther King and the road to parity for American natives will be even longer than that...

The film is slow paced on purpose, in order for the audience to absorb the atrocity of the situation in which the American natives, in this case the Cheyennes, are forced to live.

The U.S. Government is not depicted as one homogeneous force as it may have been later on in history, but rather as a bunch of newly arrived groups of Europeans who intend to take a foothold on the American Continent in order to pursue an all out colonization of the Land. A very similar situation to that of the British confronted with the Zulus in South Africa.

Right or wrong is not contemplated in this movie. History here is what it was, crude and cruel. It's the affirmation of one Society over another. People don't count...

But this is exactly where this movie is highly revealing: the people involved. History is just a poor excuse to handle people as cattle.

It's the interior conflicts of the people that appear in this work that make it so worthwhile. Whites, as well as American natives, seem uncomfortable with the situation at hand and struggle uneasily against the winds of Power.

A Power always felt but never seen. An Evil force that drives people to do what they do because they are meant to do it. But this evil force is never clearly seen and never takes a firm foothold in one or more people.

This is why everything in this movie seems to be at once so confused and at the same time so desperate. The movie asks who these people really are and what they really want from life, but also shows us that they all are pawns in this immense chess game and no one can really do what he would like to do.

Here, John Ford's image of his interior struggle taking place is very clearly recognizable. It's as if he's trying to tell us that he has always tried to do what was right but never really what he truly wanted to do... and that he was probably sorry never to be able to unchain himself from the system.

The true message to us and the legacy he is trying to convey is not to allow others to take us as hostages but rather to fight such people with all our strength because otherwise we might land up as slaves.

In as much, the movie is revolutionary for its times. In other words this is a multi-layered work of art that is well worth watching in its subtle net of subplots that hide messages reserved to those who can read them.

It's much less a Western than a History lesson, but so much more a last "J'accuse" from the author of the most memorable Westerns ever made and the most controversial director of his times.

If you know how to read John Ford, then this movie will reveal him to you like none other before. If you're out for another conventional John Ford movie than this is certainly not it.

It's up to you, but remember, great directors reveal themselves in movies that are usually atypical from their regular genres or themes.

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Release Date:

22 December 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Long Flight See more »


Box Office


$4,200,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Ford-Smith Productions See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Mono (35 mm prints)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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