Trooper Hook, an independently produced western from 1957, tapped into themes that were increasingly in the air in the 1950s in such films as Broken Arrow (1950), The Searchers (1956) and Two Rode Together (1961). Though it begins with a battle between a renegade band of Apaches and a cavalry troop, the film is less about the spectacle of cowboys and Indians than about race and prejudice and miscegenation, contemporary issues seen through a frontier context.
Joel McCrea is the title character, Sgt. Clovis Hook, a veteran cavalry officer who discovers a captive white woman among the prisoners, and Barbara Stanwyck is the “white squaw,” a silent, distrustful woman who clings to her half-Indian son, who is also the son of Apache Chief, Nanchez (Rodolfo Acosta). Hook is assigned to escort the woman back to her husband (her name is Cora Sutcliff and she was travelling to meet her husband when her stage was attacked by Apaches). The rest of the film plays out like a variation on Stagecoach (1939), with a collection of various characters joining Hook, Cora, and her son Quito on a stage ride to her husband’s ranch.
Trooper Hook was a reunion of sorts for Stanwyck and McCrea, who had often been paired up early in their careers, including the lively medical drama Internes Can’t Take Money (1937), with McCrea playing Dr. Kildare, and Cecil B. DeMille’s epic western Union Pacific (1939). This became their sixth feature together after a fifteen year gap. Both came to the film older and more seasoned, but there was one major difference from the previous films: For the first time, Joel McCrea received top billing.
Plays on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, May 30. Not on DVD.