Michael Ansara-The Cruel Indian in Movies

Before I start on the subject actor, let me acknowledge the portrayal of Native Americans in movies and television. Charlie Stevens, Iron Eyes Cody, Jay Silverheels, and Johnny War Eagle were good actors who made westerns films really enjoyable. Nevertheless, Syrian born Michael Ansara has almost covered the entire market. In his Indian movies portrayals, Ansara has a steady cruel facial expression; his eyes were piercing; gestures and speech were short and abrupt. As you may have guessed Michael Ansara lost a well staged fist fight with the films’ hero. He played in many movies but Only the Valiant to me was special.

Only the Valiant 1950; Michael Ansara plays Chief Tucsos

Gregory Peck plays Captain Richard Lance, a by-the-book West Point graduate who is not very popular with the men under his command. Ansara is a menacing presence even when not on the screen.

Following the American Civil War, peace is maintained in the New Mexico Territory by Fort Invicible, a fortification set up outside a mountain pass that blocks marauding bands of Apaches. It is a satellite type fort to protect the Headquarters of the Fifth Cavalry, a much larger base to the north. Captain Lance returns at headquarters with his patrol soon after a battle and that captured Tucsos, the charismatic leader of the Apaches. Lance’s scout had advised the Captain to kill Tucsos but Lance will not shoot a prisoner and takes him back.

The invalid Commanding Officer orders Lance to assign an officer to command an escort to take Tucsos to a larger post further east. He strongly implies that he wished Captain Lance had shot Tucsos. Lance wishes to lead the patrol but at the last minute the Colonel says he needs Lance at his fort in case of an Apache attack and to assign a popular officer, Lieutenant Holloway, to lead the small group of men escorting Tucsos; but the Apaches will stop at nothing to get him back.

Lieutenant Holloway ends up dead, Tucsos escapes, and the men at the fort blame Captain Lance. They believe that his decision to assign Lieutenant Holloway to the dangerous mission was a personal one; both Lance and Holloway were vying for the affection of the same woman.

Lance’s standing with the soldiers at the fort only gets worse when the Commanding Officer orders him to assemble a group of misfit cavalrymen to hold off rampaging Indians at the Fort Invincible which is considered to be a suicide mission. The Apaches are able to cut off the fort’s water supply then assault when the garrison is at its weakest. Under the white flag, Lance goes to Tucsos to settle the dispute but the angry Tucsos will have none of it.

Just before the Apache attack, the Cavlary arrives with the new Gatling Gun which really mows downs the Indians. Peck and Ansara have a well staged fistfight, with the white man winning. All the personal romantic problems at the main fort are understood.

Michael Ansara played in other films we will discuss later.


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