With an infectious homespun personality, Ives was a kind of Norman Rockwell of music, keeping alive the nation’s oldest folk songs.
for a decade, believes the state’s success today in enticing the movie industry to New Mexico is Gov. Cargo’s legacy.
Because of Cargo, Sachson came to New Mexico to see if it might be a suitable locale for his Western. The state supplemented its glad-handed public-relations campaign when film committee member Charles LeMaire, a retired designer for 20th Century Fox, formed a company that converted portions of the abandoned four-building New Mexico National Guard complex on Old Santa Fe Trail into a film production facility. A soundstage was built, along with rehearsal space, offices, dressing rooms, and a warehouse for props. The project even included a powerful electric generator capable of lighting the homes of Santa Fe’s 45,000 residents, according to one press account.
Sachson considered the facility, still under construction, “kind of frightening,” he told the The making of brought an exceptionally varied group of actors to New Mexico. In addition to Brock Peters and Ives, the former Confederate officer Kolby was played by Jack Palance, a Hollywood leading man known for his roles in Westerns such as as well as films such as and television shows including
David Carradine took the role of Indian chief White Feather. Although already a well-known actor, he was several years away from becoming forever identified with his television role as Kwai Chang Caine, the monk with kung-fu skills traveling about the Old West. Nancy Kwan, a Hong Kong-born actress who had become a star performing breakthrough Asian character roles, played the part of Robin, White Feather’s sister who is given to Benjie.
Despite the movie’s intended attack on racism, the choice of its cast followed the industry’s tradition of not using Native Americans in major roles. The available Native American population in New Mexico was asked only to play roles as unnamed tribal members. More than 50 residents of the Tesuque and San Idelfonso Pueblos were recruited at $25 to $30 a day, a high salary for a group of people used to earning $600 a year, noted one reporter. “They even bring their own dogs,” Sachson told a reporter who visited the set. The two main Indian roles were reserved for Carradine and Kwan. “With brown paint and a little oil on her long tresses, Miss Kwan, a Sino-British Eurasian, can be distinguished among a crowd of Puebloans only by her haunting beauty,” according to the reporter.
Filming took place in Galisteo, Tesuque, and San Idelfonso, where landscapes were without visible power lines or other signs of modernity. Set decorator George R. Nelson, who counted among his credits, built an Indian village with hundreds of hides and a cabin. A group of dilapidated miners’ homes, as well as the church in Madrid, were spruced up to use as the town. A set for the interior of the McMasters’ ranch house was built in the nascent New Mexico Film Center.
Shooting was completed in seven weeks and the film reels sent to London for editing. An estimated $1 million was spent in the state. Gov. Cargo and others such as LeMaire were happy with the project, and soon announced that three films were now scheduled to be shot in New Mexico. “They arrive with millions and depart with a can of film,” Le Maire told the “Movie makers do not pollute the air or exploit our natural resources — and as a fringe benefit they add immeasurably to the charm of our community while they are here.”