"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Indian Paint (Eagle American/Tejas, 1965)

Cowboys Indians and Indians


Indian Paint is an independently produced mid-60s Western, unusual in that there are no white men in it (well, there are plenty but they are playing Indians) and no firearms appear at all. It’s a story set on the Plains before the palefaces arrived and tells of the coming of age of a young Sioux brave and the tribe’s war with the Snakes.
Jay Silverheels is the chief. Of course we all know Mr. Silverheels as Tonto but he had a whole non-Lone Ranger career aside from that, mostly playing Indians of various tribes in B-movies. He was Geronimo several times. He started in the early 1940s in Kit Carson and Western Union and was a regular from then on. You can often spot him, usually as a chief of some kind. In Indian Paint he is well into his fifties and has broadened out (who am I to talk?) but he still has that certain authority as leading Native American on the screen.

Western fans, of my generation at least, will remember Johnny and Robert Crawford as the boy heroes of late-1950s shows The Rifleman and Laramie respectively. By the mid-60s they had grown (to the point where Johnny, born 1946, wasn’t all that convincing as a young boy; you wonder why he wasn’t already riding on the warpath with his dad) and together they starred in Indian Paint, which was produced and edited by the boys' father, Robert Crawford Sr. So it was a family affair. Johnny is Nishko, the star, and Robert is Wacopi, his slightly older rival (actually Robert was younger but never mind).
It’s very much in the ‘family film’ category, and it’s innocuous, but it isn’t too bland. It mainly concerns a paint colt beloved by Nishko and as such the movie was doubtless aimed at the juvenile market (and maybe their moms).

Sadly, most of the Indians are played by whites (Silverheels and Pat Hogan as the medicine man are exceptions) but that was how they did it in the 1960s.

It was directed and written (from a Glenn Balch novel) by Norman Foster. Foster was no slouch at the Western. He had first directed one (a Cisco Kid movie with Cesar Romero) in 1940 and had gone on to do the interesting Rachel and the Stranger in 1948. Later, he directed and/or wrote a lot of Davy Crockett and Zorro episodes on TV, and film versions of those.

The cinematographer on Indian Paint was Floyd Crosby (David’s dad), no less, very famous for having done the fine photography of High Noon. The surprisingly lush, green locations were in Texas, and rather bucolic.

So this movie was no junker. It had quite a lot going for it. If you came across it one day, you could certainly give it a go.



  1. I have seen many stills from this movie, but never the movie itself. And though you're fairly lukewarm, I think I'll seek it out.

  2. Amazon Prime has an excellent 16:9 print, sharp & clear with good color. Finally saw it last month (was sick the week it played my neighborhood theatre, and it never came back), and was impressed with it, for what it was.