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James Garner, Vera Miles, AND a McEveety brother directing? I’m getting major The Castaway Cowboy vibes here! Is One Little Indian any good? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the credits of this Bernard McEveety-directed film roll, we see some members of the Cavalry chasing down and eventually capturing a man named Clint Keyes, played by James Garner. Clint is an ex-Cavalry man himself and is taken back as a prisoner to an outpost nearby. At the same time, some Cheyenne natives have been captured and brought to the outpost as well due to being “hostile”. One of their young boys is a white boy who grew up amongst the Cheyenne and is christened Mark. He’s played by Clay O’Brien.
One night, Mark escapes from the outpost and bumps into Clint who has also escaped along with two camels he’s stolen, one named Rosebud and one which Mark calls Thirsty.
Mark and Clint don’t hit if off in the beginning (especially after Clint accidentally shoots Mark), but they pair up travelling the desert together while running away from the Cavalry who have noticed their absences by now. The two eventually become friendly with Clint taking a protective stance towards Mark. They find food along the way even by taking from small Cavalry encampments they come across.
Eventually they come across a farmhouse wherein resides the widow, Doris McIver, played by Vera Miles, and her daughter, Martha, played by a young Jodie Foster.
At first, Doris is rightfully wary of Clint coming on their land, but he does his best to not pose a threat and let them know that he means no harm. He even offers to help around the farm. Doris allows them to stay and provides them with food. Clint is mighty grateful and it’s clear that something develops between him and Doris.
Mark isn’t particularly fond of Doris or Martha and wants to be taken back to his “mother” from the Cheyenne tribe. Clint is heading towards Mexico and can’t risk being caught by taking Mark to the Cheyenne. Doris and Martha are moving to the city in a couple of days and Clint convinces Doris to take Mark with her. Mark doesn’t want to go with them though and instead runs away into the desert trying to find Clint (who has left early one morning to make the goodbye easier for Mark).
When Mark catches up with Clint, he’s reasonably upset, but the two patch up quickly. However, the cavalry soon catches up with them and captures Clint. Mark manages to escape in time with the camels.
The cavalry take Clint back to the outpost to be hanged. It turns out the reason they were after him in the first place was that he helped some of the natives with their families after some fellow Cavalry men started shooting the native women. His actions were seen as mutiny and he was sentenced to hang. Captain Stewart, played by Pat Hingle, is in charge of the outpost and isn’t in favor of the hanging orders. However, the orders are from above him, so he can’t do anything about them.
Clint is rescued though when Mark returns with a herd of cattle just in time before Clint was about to be hanged. The two of them escape and in a weird twist of events, Clint is declared a free man because according to Captain Stewart, the hanging trapdoor was sprung, hence that’s enough of a loophole to satisfy the hanging orders.
Clint doesn’t have to be on the run anymore and pretty much adopts Mark promising to take him to see his Cheyenne mother sometime in the future.
And that was One Little Indian! Honestly, it was better than I expected and I think James Garner’s performance has a lot to do with that. Pat Hingle gave a powerful performance as well and is way stricter here than as Commissioner Gordon! Clay O’Brien is the only main actor who isn’t very good, but not everyone can be Jodie Foster.
Speaking of which, both Jodie Foster and Vera Miles and Jodie Foster gave great performances, but I think their appearance in the film prevents it from being better than it is. They’re barely in the film and I feel the film would have been better had it been about Clint and Mark hiding out at the farmhouse for the entirety of the film whilst developing relationships with Doris and Martha. Or had the film been about Clint and Mark wandering the desert together whilst developing a bond between them. Putting both of these together in the plot just comes across as unfocused, in my opinion.
I’m down for a good remake of this film; I think there would be a lot of potential in that!
So, my final score for this film is 26/35 = 74.29% (C) !
The next review will be posted on September 14, 2021.