(1956 c 89')
Based on the biography of his father by Woodworth Clum, an Indian agent takes control of an Apache reservation and trains a police force so they can govern themselves. Some want to join Geronimo, but he decides to bring him in.
John Philip Clum (Audie Murphy), wearing a suit and a hat, arrives in Tucson on a stage coach in 1874. He sees a cowboy talking about his Apache scalps of four men and two women. Clum asks if they do him any good, and he says he can sell them south of the border.
Clum shows his papers to Governor Safford (Addison Richards). Clum says he is not a minister although he studied to be one. General Wade (Morris Ankrum) comes in and says that Geronimo is under control and has not raided for two months. He says the Apaches are confined to a reservation with guns trained on them. Clum says the Army’s attempt to exterminate the Apaches has cost the US Government $3,000,000 so far without solving the problem. General Wade says this is the only treatment the savages understand. Clum says the Government wants to make useful citizens out of them. Wade laughs and asks how he proposes to do that. Clum says he has never seen an Apache. Wade advises Clum to listen to Captain Larsen at Fort Carlson.
Clum driving a wagon arrives at Fort Carlson and shows his letter to Captain Larsen (Ainslie Pryor). Sergeant Tom Sweeney (Charles Drake) shows Clum to his quarters. He says the last agent stayed three weeks, which is the longest of any. Clum helps two Apache children after they fall, and he sees the mother Tianay (Anne Bancroft). Clum asks what is wrong with her, and Sweeney says she is in mourning for her husband. Clum looks at his primitive shack, and Sweeny shoots a rattlesnake dead. He advises Clum to get a gun. Larsen comes in and tells Clum about the Indian men being brought in wearing chains. They led a band off the reservation after the last Geronimo raid because they are afraid of the army. They came back because they were starving. Clum questions why they were chained, and the Captain says orders are orders. Clum tells him he wants them unchained and has Larsen follow his order. Larsen has them unchained. Clum tells them he is the new agent and will not have them chained anymore.
Tianay thanks Clum for freeing the chiefs and asks how he has the authority over the soldiers. He says it is a matter of policy. They see the chiefs dancing and shouting war cries. Tianay says they are drinking what is forbidden. Clum goes over and kicks over their pot of drink. An Indian with a knife attacks him, and they fight. Clum is being strangled when others break up the fight. Chief Eskiminzin (Robert Warwick) asks the warrior Disalin (Anthony Caruso) why he is treating the man who helped them like that. Captain Larsen and his men arrive on horses with swords, and Clum tells him to go back to his area. The chief brings Disalin to Clum for punishment, and Clum says it is for the chief to decide the punishment. Clum says he is not there to rule the reservation but to help them rule it. Eskiminzin tells Disalin that he is no longer a chief under him.
Clum tells Captain Larsen that he and his men are to leave Fort Carlson. The next day Larsen and his men line up and depart. Chief Eskiminzin asks Clum where the soldiers went, and Clum says he asked them to leave the reservation. Clum says punishment for crimes must be fair. He says the Apaches will have their own police and their own courts.
Clum checks the quartermaster report of their food. Clum meets Taglito (Tommy Rall) and others. Santos (Victor Millan) is the son of Chief Eskiminzin. Clum goes in his house and sees Tianay with her son Tono. She is there to cook for him and stay with him. She chose to do this, and it is all right because she is a widow. If he sends her back, she would be shamed. She tells him not to worry. He goes out, and the Chief gives him Apache clothes. In exchange he asks for Clum’s hat. Clum says he is pledged to the woman who is to be his wife. The Chief says his heart must lead him.
Clum is writing a letter, and Tono asks him about the tracks. He laughs at Clum’s name. The Chief tells Clum that their guns were taken away, and they need them to hunt. Clum says he will go to Tucson to find out about the beef. He hears Tono shouting about killing like Geronimo, and Clum gives him some advice. Tianay is wearing colorful clothes, and she tells him that her time of mourning is past. Two cowboys with hands tied are brought in by Apaches. Clum sees that Taglito is wounded. They were caught stealing beef from the Apaches. Clum has them put in a wagon, and he takes them to Tucson. Clum tells the sheriff that they tried to kill Taglito, and he wants them tried for attempted murder.
Clum talks to the Governor and General Wade and asks him to give the rifles back to the Apaches. Wade says he can pick them up. On the way back Taglito says he has as many friends there as Clum and adds the word “maybe.” Clum asks why Apaches use that word so much. They see Sweeney in civilian clothes, and Clum goes into a bar with him. Sweeney is drunk and orders a bottle. Clum asks Sweeney what he is going to do, and he says he is a blacksmith. He will go back to Iowa. The two cowboys come in and talk to Clum. Sweeney says they give medals for shooting Apaches, but he resents them calling his friend an Indian-lover. A fight starts, and Sweeney and Clum are knocked out. Taglito drives the wagon with Clum and Sweeney in the back. Clum wakes up Sweeney with water. Clum says they are hauling rifles. Sweeney jumps out, and Clum has the wagon stop and asks him to train his Apache police force. Sweeney is afraid of getting into trouble. Clum says he can make a profit. They return to the fort, and Clum says the best hunters can have a rifle for two days to hunt, and they must be turned in to the Chief, who says the rule will stand. Clum tells Taglito that the police will be armed at all times. Clum gives Tono a toy gun. Tianay warns Clum there is much danger for him in giving them rifles.
Clum lets Santos have a rifle and six bullets. Santos tells Tianay that he thought it was understood that she would be his wife. He tells her not to forget who she is. Clum gives the warrior Disalin six rounds also. Clum marks it down in a book. Disalin loads his rifle, goes into Clum’s house, and shoots at him. He goes outside and shouts for others to join him in killing the white men. He runs toward the house, and Taglito shoots him. Inside Tianay is bandaging Clum’s wounded arm. Sweeney asks Clum what they will say in Tucson, and Clum says an Apache killed an Apache to save a white man. Tianay says they were brothers. She tells Clum she will take his pain. She asks why he turns away from her. He says she is not ugly, but he loves a girl who is to be his wife. She says he could have two wives, but he does not agree. Chief Eskiminzin and Taglito come to the door, and the Chief tells Clum that Taglito wants to be his blood brother. Clum agrees and goes through the ritual.
Sweeney is training his police force. Tianay tells Clum he is like a father taking care of many children. He says he is like a minister over a flock. He teaches the golden rule of doing to others what you would want. Sweeney dismisses the troops and tells Clum he needs whiskey in Tucson. Clum asks him to get candy and red silk cloth.
Sweeney comes back in the wagon with a hangover and the red cloth. Clum gives the cloth to Tianay, who says she has no gift for him. She says red is good luck to an Apache. Sweeney gives Clum a letter, and he says Mary will be in Tucson next week. Clum wants to invite everybody to their wedding.
The stage arrives in Tucson, and Clum welcomes Mary Dennison (Pat Crowley). She is surprised they are going to a justice of the peace. Clum says no one would come because of the Apaches. He kisses her and tells her to put on her wedding dress.
The judge is asking Clum and Mary to give their vows. As a disturbance occurs, he pronounces them husband and wife. They go outside, and Sweeney has brought the Apache police force. The cavalry rides in to town. General Wade orders the Apaches disarmed. Clum says the rifles are not loaded. Sweeney has them fire shots and says they are empty now. The Governor suggests the Apaches leave town, but Clum says they want to put on a show, a cultural exchange. The Governor accepts and wishes Mary a good marriage. Clum says it is the first time that Apaches and whites have met in peace. Clum and Mary go off to be alone.
That night the Apaches dance around the fire, and the Governor asks about the meaning. Clum says when they jump, they are making a kill. The Governor tells Clum that maybe they were wrong, and he will have his full support from now on. He says there will be no more trouble about supplies and apologizes for not coming to his wedding.
Santos asks Tianay to give up the white man. He asks her to come with him and join Geronimo. She asks if his father is wrong. He says it is better to be dead than to be tame. She wishes her husband had been tame. Clum introduces his wife to Chief Eskiminzin, and he suggests he make her strong. Clum takes Mary to his house, and she meets Tono and Tianay. She accepts her new home and hopes to make it livable. Sweeney brings in some things and says he is moving out right away. Clum helps him with his gear. Mary dismisses Tianay, who says she wants to stay there. Mary says okay, and Tianay says she does not mind that Clum has more than one wife. Mary learns that Tianay has been living there. Tianay asks to talk with Clum, and she has Tianay leave. Clum explains that Tianay was given to him to keep house, but he could not manage sending her away. Mary wants her to go. Clum says she would be offended. Mary asks what happened to his morals. He asks her to learn how to respect these people as he does. Tono runs in and says that Geronimo is coming.
They go outside. Geronimo (Jay Silverheels) and his warriors arrive on horses. Clum asks why he is there, and Geronimo says he needs warriors. Chief Eskiminzin says fighting never stopped the white men. Geronimo wants Taglito and Santos. Clum says they can go if they want to, but no one moves. Clum invites Geronimo to come there and follow their rules. Geronimo says he will talk to his people and rides off. Clum tells Sweeney they should give him some time. Tianay says he is the first white man to talk to Geronimo and live. She is proud of him. Mary thanks Tianay for taking care of her husband and asks her to leave. Tianay says the home is ruled by the man, and he is pleased with her. Mary says she must leave. Clum asks what is wrong. Mary says Tianay must leave, or she will. Clum tells Tianay she has to go because he can have only one wife. Mary says she acted as though she belongs there. Clum says Mary is being childish. Outside Tono asks his friend to leave with him, and they go.
That evening Mary says goodnight to Clum, and he tells her that he will always love her. He is glad she is jealous. Mary says that girl is in love with him, and he admits she likes him. He tells Mary that he wants her to be his only woman for all time. Chief Eskiminzin and Tianay come in and say two children are gone. Mary says it is her fault, and she suggests that Clum go.
Tono and Pica are walking in the desert. Pica says he is cold and wants to go home. Tono says he is not brave. They hear a coyote and walk on. They see the coyote, and they run away as does the coyote. Clum and Tianay find Tono and Pica. Clum tells Tono that he needs his help at San Carlos. Tono says he will never be chief; he wants to go to Geronimo. Clum says the soldiers are always chasing Geronimo. Clum says his mother is not his wife. Clum says he needs Tono, and he promises not to go away again.
A wagon train is under attack by Apaches, and Clum sees the cavalry arrive. The Apaches flee. Clum drives a covered wagon to San Carlos with wounded people. Santos says they will join Geronimo. Santos says he will not be chained again, and he says to get the guns. Clum says he will have to kill him first. They argue. Clum says he will go to Geronimo. Taglito says he will take Clum to him. Chief Eskiminzin urges the warriors to go with them. Sweeney warns Clum not to do this.
Clum gets the chains from his house, and Mary tries to talk him out of it too. Clum says he will be back, but Sweeney tells Clum he will go with him. Tianay prays that the good Spirit will go with Clum, and he thanks her. Clum drives off in a wagon.
Mary tells Tianay she is going back home. She asks if that is what Tianay wants. Tianay says she does. She says the woman must give the man strength so that he can give to others. Tianay says their lives have been hard. She tells Mary that Clum loves her, and Mary cries on her shoulder.
Clum tells the men they will camp there. He finds Tono hiding in the wagon. Sweeney asks where Geronimo is, and Taglito explains why the cavalry could not find him. Clum wants Geronimo to think they are walking into his trap. Sweeney shows him the place is surrounded by high mountains. Clum suggests they split up, and some will go into the mountains. He tells the story of Gideon and the Midianites from the Bible. Clum says they will not kill the Apaches. They will fire at the same time, and the mountains will echo. Clum tells Sweeney to go with Taglito, and they warn him about Santos.
Geronimo gets a report that twenty men are being led by Santos. Geronimo says they can use their rifles. He says they will wait for them to come. Clum drives the wagon and approaches Geronimo and his men. Clum walks up to Geronimo and says there has been enough killing. He asks them to surrender to the United States Government. He asks them to come to San Carlos and live in peace. Geronimo makes fun of living like women. Clum knocks the rifle out of Geronimo’s hands, and Santos shoots the warrior next to him. Then the guns are fired from the mountains. Clum tells Geronimo that he is under arrest. He tells him to order his warriors to put down their weapons, and Geronimo motions to them.
The Apaches walk behind the wagon Clum is driving. Clum sees soldiers at San Carlos and asks General Wade why he is there. Wade says there is a state of emergency, and the army is in control. Clum shows him Geronimo and tells him to take his troops away. Clum says he will not live there under military law, and he quits. Taglito and Chief Eskiminzin ask Clum to stay with them. Mary says they are right. Clum says he is surprised to see her there. She says she grew up, and she realizes that he belongs to them. Clum tells the Chief that they must have a talk with the stubborn general. Clum goes into the house with Mary.
The US Government turned San Carlos over to the Apaches in 1955.
This true story depicts a courageous peacemaker managing to defuse a violent conflict on both sides, bringing to justice the most notorious of hostile Indians. He trusts people and allows them to make their own decisions while remaining true to his principles in his personal relations as well as in his work as an Indian agent for the government.