Friday, August 5, 2022

#2,795. Yellowstone Kelly (1959) - Clint Walker Westerns Triple Feature


Inspired by the exploits of Luther Sage “Yellowstone” Kelly, who served briefly in the Union Army and later made a name for himself in Montana as a pioneer and trapper, Yellowstone Kelly is a serviceable if somewhat routine western from director Gordon Douglas.

After declining an offer to act as a guide for Cavalry Officer Major Towns (Rhodes Reason), Yellowstone Kelly (Clint Walker) and his new sidekick Anse Harper (Edd Byrnes) are abducted by a band of Sioux warriors.

It seems that a young Arapaho maiden named Wahleeah (Andra Martin) has been shot in the back, and the Sioux chief, Gall (John Russell), believes Kelly is the only man who can save her. Wahleeah is to become the wife of Gall’s hot-headed nephew Sayapi (Ray Danton), though it is clear Gall himself may have feelings for her as well. Kelly does as requested, and Wahleeah survives.

A few weeks later, as Kelly and Anse are settling in for the winter, a still-injured Wahleeah unexpectedly turns up. Having escaped the Sioux, she wishes to be returned to her own people, and begs Kelly and Anse to help her. Agreeing to shelter Wahleeah for the winter, it isn’t long before Kelly and Anse also develop feelings for the pretty maiden, bit will Kelly risk angering the Sioux by honoring Wahleeah’s wishes, or will he turn her over to Gall once Spring arrives?

Fresh off the success of his TV series Cheyenne, Clint Walker is quite strong as Yellowstone Kelly, a man who seldom speaks more than a few words and remains true to his principles. Edd Byrnes is equally good as Anse, Kelly’s inexperienced traveling companion, and both Claude Akins and Warren Oates turn up briefly as soldiers who give Kelly a hard time (and pay the price for it).

Written by Burt Kennedy and based on a novel penned by Clay Fisher, Yellowstone Kelly does a better job presenting the plight of Native Americans than other films from this era; reminding Major Towns of the treaty that exists between the U.S. government and the chiefs of the native tribes, Kelly refuses to help the military drive the Sioux from the territory. Unfortunately, this more sympathetic approach didn’t extend to the casting; Gall, Sayapi, and Wahleeah are portrayed by white actors in brownface, and while the performances aren’t bad, it’s a distraction nonetheless.

Still, with its picturesque western landscapes (the film was shot on-location in Arizona), a few decent action scenes (especially the climactic battle), and Clint Walker’s solid portrayal of the title character, Yellowstone Kelly is always entertaining.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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