One of Joel McCrea's better westerns is Trooper Hook the story of a man given a mission to deliver a recent captive of the Indians back to her family. This is no ordinary captive. Barbara Stanwyck has been with the Apaches for several years and has been the squaw of Chief Rudolfo Acosta and has had a son by him. After an a raid on Acosta's village she's discovered by the cavalry and identified. She and her little boy are taken to the fort and McCrea is given the assignment of taking her back to husband John Dehner. But this is going to prove a difficult journey on many levels. Had Trooper Hook been directed by someone like John Ford it would have gotten far more acclaim than it did. There are elements of Ford's Stagecoach, The Searchers and Two Rode Together in Trooper Hook. And Rudolfo Acosta as Chief Natchez seems to be continuing the part he played in Hondo. One thing I've always liked about westerns they certainly give the more mature among us the chance to be heroes. And the movies never had a better straight arrow hero than Joel McCrea. It's mentioned he's a career soldier and 47 years old. He needs every bit of that experience for the job at hand. Stanwyck has a tough road to hoe in this film. A lot of very self righteous people wonder why she just didn't kill herself rather than submit to Acosta. McCrea understands however, the scene where he tells her of his experience in Andersonville prison during the Civil War is the most effective in the film. Lots of western regulars fill out the supporting roles. In addition to those mentioned look for Earl Holliman as the sympathetic young cowboy who hitches a ride on the stagecoach, Celia Lovsky and Susan Kohner as grandmother and granddaughter, Edward Andrews as a sniveling rat who will make your skin crawl, and Royal Dano as the stage driver. Rape, Illegitimate birth, Miscegenation and kidnapping were usually not subjects for the Saturday afternoon kiddie crowd who saw westerns. But the Fifties was the decade of the adult western and Trooper Hook is a prime example. In fact on her Big Valley television series, Stanwyck had a similar story line with Michael Burns about a young boy who was born to a white woman captive and later returns to white society. Only the story was from the kid's point of view. Trooper Hook is the sixth and last film Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck made. It might very well be the best of them. Though director Charles Marquis Warren was obviously influenced by John Ford, I doubt very much if Ford himself could have done a better job. Trooper Hook is an undiscovered masterpiece in need of reevaluation.
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When Apache chief Nanchez is captured by the cavalry, his white squaw and infant son are returned to civilization by Sergeant Hook, but Nanchez escapes custody and attempts to re-claim his son.
October 27, 2020