Apache (1954): Aldrich’s Western, Starring Lancaster as Native American

Apache belongs to a cycle of socially-conscious Westerns in the early 1950s, the best of which was Broken Arrow, in 1950.

The Western Apache, an early film by Robert Aldrich, signals what would become characteristic of his entire work, no matter what specific genre he chose.

Apache (film) poster.jpg

Starring Burt Lancaster at the height of his popularity, this brutal Western follows the surrender of Massai, the last Apache warrior, captured and destined to be transported to a Florida reservation.

On the way, however, he escapes and heads for his homeland to win back his girl and settle down to grow crops.

In the 1950s, most Native Americans were played by white actors (Jeff Chandler was prominent among them), a strategy that would not be acceptable today.

Lancaster has a chance to display his muscular body, flashing teeth, and acrobatic skills as he fights the cavalry with every weapon possible, knife, arrow, and gun.

One white man, Al Sieber (John McIntire), shows sympathy for the plight of the Indians. Jean Peters is too glamorous as Massai’s love interest, Naline. Geronimo is played by the silent film actor Blue.

Too bad that UA, which released this Lancaster production, forced a happy ending on a tale, which initially was going to be shot down by the troopers, just when he settled down.

Made on a decent budget, Apache was extremely popular at the box office, especially in Europe.


Burt Lancaster as Massai
Jean Peters as Nalinle
John McIntire as Al Sieber
Charles Bronson as Hondo (billed as Charles Buchinsky)
John Dehner as Weddle
Paul Guilfoyle as Santos
Ian MacDonald as Clagg
Walter Sande as Lt. Col. Beck
Morris Ankrum as Dawson
Monte Blue as Geronimo


Directed by Robert Aldrich
Produced by Harold Hecht
Written by James R. Webb, based on novel Broncho Apache by Paul Wellman
Music by David Raksin
Cinematography Ernest Laszlo
Edited by Alan Crosland Jr.

Production company: Hecht-Lancaster

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: July 9, 1954

Running time: 87 minutes
Budget $1,240,000
Box office $10 million