When one looks at lists of all time great westerns, its not likely that you’ll see “Little Big Horn” among them. It is nonetheless worthy of greater appreciation. Produced by the small independent Lippert Company and directed by first time director Charles Marquis Warren, it has a riveting storyline and contains some great performances.
Captain Phil Donlin (Lloyd Bridges) returns home from a patrol to find his wife Celie (Marie Windsor) in the arms of fellow officer Lieutenant John Haywood (John Ireland). Donlin accepts his fate (for the moment) and leaves on a three week patrol. On patrol, Donlin learns of the impending ambush of Colonel George Custer and his men at Little Big Horn. Still distraught over his wife’s unfaithfulness, he decides to embark on a three day 250 mile journey to warn Custer of the oncoming attack.
Haywood meanwhile, has been ordered to call in all patrols from the field due to the Sioux threat. When he reaches Donlin’s patrol, Donlin decides to “take the long way around” in obeying his superior’s orders to return to the fort. As a measure of revenge, orders Haywood to accompany him on his suicide mission. Haywood decides to prove that he is a worthy soldier and not let the love triangle interfere with his duties.
One by one the patrol are being killed off by the Sioux as they press on toward their objective. The tension grows between Donlin and Haywood until the two finally come to blows. And then……………
Bridges, in one of his rare starring parts is excellent as the leader of the patrol. Ireland as well, stands out among the cast of familiar western movie faces. Reed Hadley plays S/Sgt. Grierson a former officer who had been a Major in the Civil War, Jim Davis as Cpl. Moylan, Hugh O’Brian as the card playing Pvt. DeWalt, Wally Cassell as Pvt. Zecca who is in and out of trouble, Sheb Wooley as the scout, Quince, Rodd Redwing and King Donovan and John Pickard as other members of the patrol.
Given the historical events of the Little Big Horn, the ending of the story is fairly obvious, but nevertheless, you’ll find yourself rooting for the patrol that they will somehow achieve their objective.
Probably the best film to ever come from Lip