Distant Trumpet, A (1964): Raoul Walsh’s Last Film, Starring Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette

In 1964, Raoul Walsh made his last (and one of his weakest) film, the Western A Distant Trumpet, starring Troy Donahue, Suzanne Pleshette, and Diane McBain.

The screenplay by John Twist, Albert Beich and Richard Fielder is based on Paul Horgan’s 1960 novel of the same name.

In 1883, U.S. Army Cavalry lieutenant Matthew Hazard (Donahue), a new graduate from the West Point military academy, is assigned to the isolated Fort Delivery, on the Mexican border of the Arizona Territory.

While there, he meets commanding officer Teddy Mainwarring’s wife Kitty (Suzanne Pleshette), whom he later rescues from an Indian attack.

A new commander, Major General Alexander Quaint, (James Gregory), takes charge. When his efforts to capture Chiricahua Apache chief War Eagle fail, he orders Hazard into Mexico to cajole the Indian chief into surrendering.

Hazard convinces War Eagle to return with him, promising the Indians will be provided a safe haven at a reservation in Arizona. En route to the fort, they encounter Major Miller, who orders the Indians be sent to Florida.

Hazard and Quaint journey to Washington, D.C. to request U.S. War Department government officials to reverse their decision and allow Hazard to keep his word to War Eagle.

The film is brilliantly shot by ace lenser William Clothier in the stunning location terrains of the Red Rocks area of New Mexico and Arizona’s Painted Desert, Max Steiner’s dramatic score is impressive.  But the script is dull and predictable, and most of the performances are listless.

 

Cast

Troy Donahue as Lt. Matthew Hazard, U.S.A.
Suzanne Pleshette as Kitty Mainwarring
William Reynolds as Teddy Mainwarring, U.S.A.
James Gregory as Maj. Gen. Alexander Quaint, U.S.A.
Diane McBain as Laura Frelief
Claude Akins as Seely Jones
Kent Smith as the U.S. Secretary of War

Credits:

Directed by Raoul Walsh
Produced by William H. Wright
Written by John Twist, based on adaptation by Richard Fielder and Albert Beicht novel by Paul Horgan
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Edited by David Wages
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: May 27, 1964
Running time: 117 minutes