Oregon Movies, A to Z

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Drum Beat (1954)/Lost film

September 24th, 2010 by Anne Richardson · 12 Comments · 1950's, Oregon as inspiration, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition, Oregonians as inspiration, Westerns

Drum Beat is Charles Bronson’s first starring role, and he is by far the best thing in it. Set along the Oregon-California border, this anxious not-quite-a Western, wants to fold history (ie reality) into myth. Yes, Kintpuash aka Captain Jack, the leader of the Modocs, did shoot General Canby during a peace parley. Yes, Toby Riddle, a Modoc woman, did act as an intermediary between the two camps. Yes, Hollywood took this promising material and turned it into mush.

If you want to know more about the Modoc Indian War, read a book. Don’t watch this film, which will take ten points off your IQ. If you want to watch an actor become a star, definitely watch this film. Charles Bronson (as Capt. Jack) is never less than riveting, even though he is up to his ears in narrative dreck.

Leading man Alan Ladd produced. Later he would return to Oregon to make All The Young Men with Sidney Poitier. Ladd was top box office when he made Drum Beat. That might explain how it happened that no one noticed the script needed about a dozen re-writes.

I hereby claim Drum Beat as an Oregon film, based on the inspiration provided by events which took place, in part, in Oregon.

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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rob Lawson // Oct 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Alan Ladd couldn’t “return to Oregon” in reference to this film, because Drum Beat was filmed in Arizona (mostly around Sedona) and California.

  • 2 Rob Lawson // Oct 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Also, Drum Beat is not so lost that Encore Westerns couldn’t find it and show it this afternoon.

  • 3 Anne Richardson // Oct 15, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Rob, you are right. It would have been more accurate to say Alan Ladd returned to the Oregon Movies, A to Z list when he made his second Oregon film, All The Young Men, in 1960.

    Is it possible to buy Drum Beat on DVD? If so, then I don’t consider it a lost film. Turner Classic Movies owns prints of many of the films I list as “lost”. What I mean is “lost to the movie going/DVD buying public”.

  • 4 Rob Lawson // Oct 15, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Drum Beat has been issued in DVD, according to a check on Amazon, but it apparently didn’t, well, drum up enough business and has beat a retreat.

  • 5 Rob Lawson // Oct 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    BTW, the film that followed Drum Beat on Encore Westerns this afternoon, Day of the Outlaw, should be on your list of Oregon Films. The primary location for Day of the Outlaw was the Cascades, by Mount Bachelor. Day of the Outlaw starred Robert Ryan and Burl Ives and was directed by Andre de Toth, who was sort of a touring company Raoul Walsh. The distinctive feature of the location is that the filming was done in late winter/early spring, with deep snow making things pretty rugged.

    A bit of a coincidence that two films with Oregon connections were shown back-to-back. Or is a programmer at Encore that detail-oriented?

  • 6 Anne Richardson // Oct 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Day of the Outlaw was Andre De Toth’s second Oregon film. Never heard of it – so thank you! Now I have to see it. De Toth came here first to direct Indian Fighter (aka The Indian Fighter) starring Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau in 1955.

  • 7 Rob Lawson // Nov 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Andre de Toth must have found filming The Indian Fighter to be a congenial experience, because Day of the Outlaw was filmed in the same area in Oregon. The Indian Fighter was filmed in the Benham Buttes area outside of Bend, and at Smith Rock (the presumably skinny dip scene at the end was filmed there).

    Day of the Outlaw is available in DVD on Amazon.com, where it has a 4-star customer rating and an enthusiastic editorial review.

    Day of the Outlaw was overlooked when it was released in 1959, which was a fairly good year for movies. Ben-Hur was the top attraction; North by Northwest, Anatomy of a Murder, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun’s Story, Pillow Talk and Some Like it Hot were all released that year. The top Westerns were Rio Bravo and The Horse Soldiers (actually a Civil War film), so it is easy to see why a somber black-and-white offering didn’t attract much attention

  • 8 Rob Lawson // Nov 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Oh, and The Indian Fighter was Walter Matthau’s second film. His first, The Kentuckian (a Burt Lancaster project), was released earlier that same year. Matthau played heavies in both films. It took Billy Wilder to cast him in comedy a decade later in The Fortune Cookie, which earned Matthau an Oscar and gave a big boost to his career.

  • 9 Anne Richardson // Nov 8, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Its hard to accept Matthau as a villain! I think that’s why Don Siegal cast him in Charley Varrick – to keep the audience going ” WTF?”

  • 10 mesaman // Dec 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    If you look to Hollywood westerns to learn history of the west, maybe you should look to Walt Disney to understand Tibetan Bhuddism. Never in the annals of entertainment have so many ludicrous and blatantly false notions been foisted onto a naive public as have been through motion picture westerns.

  • 11 Anne Richardson // Dec 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Yes, the Western is more accurate when it comes to documenting fantasies. Does a pretty good job with that. Robert Altman takes a stab at addressing the gap between the history and the myth in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson
    (1976). Chris Eyre does an update of the same in Smoke Signals (1998).

  • 12 B Helms // Nov 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Actually, Drum Beat was never released on DVD or any other format. The rights are tied up with the Ladd family, and no one knows when or if they can be negotiated for. Amazon apparently had hopes at one point, but they haven’t amounted to anything.

    If it ever does come out, I hope it will be in true widescreen format rather than taken from that butchered print Turner keeps replaying.

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