Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Tomahawk" pretty good for it's time period

I've been watching for the 1951 film "Tomahawk" to be released on DVD and now that it's out, I'm impressed. Sure, it takes several Hollywood liberties with historical fact, but this is a fairly entertaining story for its time period.

The first words we hear are "This is the territory of Wyoming," although those of us who recognize the scenery know it was filmed in South Dakota. Beginning with obvious Badlands landscape and moving on to the Black Hills, several of the scenes are easy to identify.

Van Heflin plays mountain man Jim Bridger and Yvonne De Carlo plays a traveling wagon show singer. De Carlo is most well-known for her role as Lilly Munster in the classic TV series "The Munsters."

As I posted earlier, the team at Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper and "Dances With Wolves" Movie Set has researched the location of the fort in "Tomahawk" and found that those scenes were filmed just down the hill from them near the present day Reptile Gardens. Dan Seibersma from the South Dakota State Library tells me that "newspaper accounts from the time mention that the filming was done 'south of Rapid City on the Acker Ranch near Spring Creek.' Additional filming was done on 'a small area on the western edge of the Badlands six miles south of Scenic.' Eighteen Rapid City residents had speaking parts in the movie ('for which they were paid a minimum of $55 per day') and others served as stand-ins for such actors as Jack Okie and Susan Cabot."

It's also pretty certain that the fort is the same one appearing in the 1952 film "Battles of Chief Pontiac" as seen here.

I posted earlier about "Battles of Chief Pontiac" here at Cinema South Dakota.

Further tying "Tomahawk" to another movie made in the area is this teepee that appears in the 1955 film "Chief Crazy Horse." Compare this photo with the one in my last post.

It would be interesting to know how this teepee came to be in both movies and where it was between its appearance in 1951's "Tomahawk" and the 1955 "Chief Crazy Horse." Taking a wild guess, I'd say it was probably on display at some tourist attraction.

There are several exciting battle scenes in "Tomahawk," but they aren't the most realistic ever filmed. I just have to show off the state of special effects in early '50s movies. These two men have been fighting in a small pond when a young Sioux warrior shoots the one with arrow, or I should say shoots the box hidden under his shirt.

"Tomahawk" is available at


  1. That last shot is hilarious! Not much emphasis on the details...but I guess they thought no one would notice. Well, it took you a while..:)
    Anyhow, very interesting post.

  2. I finally had a chance to watch Tomahawk. What fun...and the Technicolor is gorgeous! A couple of interesting tidbits: Rock Hudson plays a small role (he's corporal Burt Hanna); and Capt. Ten Eyck is played by "David Miller" who I am quite sure is David Humphreys Miller, the notable western artist/historian.

  3. Thanks for the additional info Dan!