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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Smith! (1969)

When a young Native American (Frank Ramirez) is accused of murder and hides out on his property, a rancher (Glenn Ford) with a reputation as a friend of the Indians encourages him to give himself up and stand trial. The rancher's continual involvement with the Indian community doesn't sit well his wife (Nancy Olson SUNSET BOULEVARD) who is more concerned with saving their hay crop. Though it was a theatrical film, this Walt Disney effort has the flat ugly look of a TV production. While its intentions regarding Native Americans are honorable, the film itself does no service to the Indian population with its portrayal of the Indians as undependable, backward children in need of the white man (in this case, Ford's character) to save them. While most of the Indian cast are authentic Native Americans (like Chief Dan George and Jay Silverheels), Warren Oates was inexplicably cast as a rather shiftless Indian interpreter exploiting his own people. And, of course, what's a film like this without a nasty racist sheriff (Keenan Wynn). Olson's feisty wife was the only character I had any feeling for. Directed by Michael O'Herlihy (ONE AND ONLY, GENUINE ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND). With Dean Jagger and John Randolph.

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