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Western films, from silent to today

Geronimo (1939)

Geronimo (1939) poster Geronimo is terrorizing the southwest and President Grant wants an end to the hostilities. So he sends one of his veteran officers, Gen. John Steele (Ralph Morgan), to Camp Grant to negotiate a peace with the Apache leader.

Capt. Bill Starrett (Preston Foster), the man Steele replaces, scoffs at the notion of a peaceful resolution with the blood-thirsty chief. His chief scout Sneezer (Andy Devine) doubts it will work out that way either.

Indian agent Rufus Gillespie is doing his best to stir up trouble. Not only is he selling repeating rifles to the Indians, he’s telling Geronimo the whites want to make him their captive and offering to help rally other tribes to fight alongside him.

Meanwhile, Steele’s son, Lt. John Steele Jr. (William Henry) arrives to serve under a father he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. It’s hardly a warm reunion; the general wants to keep their relationship on a professional level, warning his son to expect no special treatment.

The lieutenant becomes so frustrated with the situation, he turns in his resignation and sends for his mother and fiance (Ellen Drew as Alice Hamilton) to meet him so they can all start a new life in California.

But before they arrive, Geronimo attacks a wagon train. Soon, the stage carrying Mrs. Steele and the lieutenants fiance is attacked as well.

And so the general takes to the field, hoping to subdue the Apache uprising with a force that’s likely to be outnumbered and outgunned.


Pretty well done cavalary versus Indians film, even if the antics get a bit far-fetched as the film races to an action-packed climax.

Devine, of course, provides the comic relief. He’s quite the artist this time around, drawing pictures to poke fun at whatever situation his friend Capt. Starrett finds himself in at the moment.

Ellen Drew is second-billed, but has only a small role and spends much of the film in a hospital bed after the attack on the stagecoach.

In fact, most of the film’s focus is on the relationship between former child star William Henry as Lt. Steele and veteran actor Ralph Morgan in the role of his father.

Oh, and here’s a bit of trivia. The habit of parachutists yelling “Geronimo” upon making a jump reportedly began after some U.S. Army paratroopers watched this film.

Preston Foster as Capt. Bill Starrett, Ellen Drew as Alice Hamilton and William Henry as Lt. John Steele in Geronimo (1939)Directed by:
Paul Sloane

Preston Foster … Capt. Bill Starrett
Ellen Drew … Alice Hamilton
Andy Devine … Sneezer
William Henry … Lt. John Steele Jr.
Ralph Morgan … Gen. Steele
Gene Lockhart … Rufus Gillespie
Marjorie Gateson … Mrs. Eleanor Steele
Pierre Watkin … Col. White
Chief Thundercloud … Geronimo
Kitty Kelly … Daisy Devine
Monte Blue … Interpreter
Addison Richards … Frederick Allison
Joseph Crehan … President Grant
Joe Dominguez … Pedro
William Haade … McNell

Runtime: 89 min.

Memorable lines:

Gen. Steele to Capt. Bill Starrett: “If you obey more orders you’ll lose fewer men.”

Capt. Bill Starrett, venting about Gen. Steele: “I know his kind — drill and scrub all day and let the Indians shoot you in the back.”
Sneezer: “Sure is comforting to know you’re clean when they kill you.”

Gen. Steele: “Mr. Sneezer, do your scouts know where to look for Geronimo?”
Sneezer: “Yes, sir, and no, sir.”
Gen. Steele: “What?”
Sneezer: “You see, sir, he’s mighty slick at not being where he just was.”

Sneezer, singing: “Geronimo, honey, I love you / you’re golden hair and eyes of blue / you’re makin’ us ride too dog gone far / come out, come out wherever you are.”

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