Delmer Daves's movie about ex–army scout Tom Jeffords's one-man peace mission to the Apaches, and the diplomatic partnership he formed with Cochise, has a child's-storybook clarity to it. That applies to not only its lovely Technicolor compositions but also its scenario, characterizations, and still-arresting mix of violence and delicacy.Broken Arrow wasn't the first Western to express sympathy for the Indian side in the frontier wars (Devil's Doorway came out earlier in 1950 and filed a more scathing brief on the Indians' behalf), but it was Daves's picture that had a decisive impact on popular consciousness and effectively amended the ground rules of the genre. James Stewart's Jeffords may be less compelling than the troubled Westerners the star would soon be playing for Anthony Mann, but there's real tenderness and vulnerability in the performance. Jeff Chandler scored a supporting-actor Oscar® nomination for leavening the dignity of Cochise with sly humor. --Richard T. Jameson
In 1870, when white men and Indians are fighting bitterly, Tom Jeffords (Stewart) strongly believes the Apaches are treated unfairly. After befriending their leader Cochise (Jeff Chandler) and arranging a truce, he is called upon by a U.S. Army general to negotiate a government peace treaty. Though he fulfills his mission, Jeffords soon experiences great tragedy when he, his Indian wife (Debra Paget) and good friend Cochise become targets of a renegade ambush.