Cast & Crew
On their way back to Fort Kirk from patrol duty, Lt. Billings and Sgt. Clarke are informed that they must deliver a treaty to the nearby trading post, where it will be picked up by a waiting lieutenant named Kirby. The treaty, which contains terms of peace that are satisfactory to both the Indians and the U.S. government, must be delivered to Chief Gray Cloud within nine days, or there will be war. The men, particularly Trooper Perkins, whose wife has just had a baby, are unhappy, and when they reach the trading post, they are dismayed to learn that Kirby has not arrived. Unknown to Billings and his men, Kirby and his men have been killed by Gray Cloud's son Taslik, an embittered warrior who believes the treaty will further weaken his people. When Taslik arrives at the post, Billings asks him to guide the troop to Gray Cloud's village. That night, as the soldiers listen to Trooper Charnofsky's stories about life in Poland, Taslik applies war paint and glares at them. When one of the men suspiciously inquires about the war paint, Taslik asks, "Do you not wear war clothes?" After a day's ride through desert terrain, heavy boulders destroy all but one of the soldiers' water barrels, and the next day, Billings is horrified to learn that the remaining barrel has sprung a leak. Taslik leads them to a spring, but it is dry. While the men sleep, Taslik steals away and receives water from his sister Wanima, who has been secretly accompanying the party and helping her brother to sabotage the water supply. Several mishaps later, Billings begins to suspect Taslik, and when all the horses are set loose, he finally confronts the brave. Taslik states that although his father considers white men honorable, he is certain the treaty will be broken. Determined to deliver the treaty, Billings order the men to continue, but it soon becomes apparent that Taslik has been leading them in circles. Exasperated and thirsty, a trooper named Tolson kills Taslik. Because the men are weak from thirst, Billings decides to send one man, Clancy, ahead to the village, but Wanima follows and shoots him. Before Clancy dies, he wounds her, however, and the detachment later stumbles onto the two fallen bodies. The soldiers want to kill Wanima, but Billings opts to take her along as proof that they want peace. Wanima leads the men not to water, but to a deserted gold mine. Grady, one of the soldiers, tries to kill Wanima, and when Billings defends her, Tolson shoots him in the arm. Realizing that Billings is sincere in his desire for peace, Wanima takes the party to a spring, thereby postponing a mutiny. That night, Tolson and two others decide to kill the loyal members of the troop so that they may plunder the gold mine. Clarke sends Billings and Wanima on to the village while he fends off the mutineers, but after the stabbing and shooting are over, only Tolson remains alive. As Billings and Wanima approach Gray Cloud's village, the soldier attacks them. A brutal fight ensues, but in the end, Billings stabs Tolson. Exhausted, Wanima and the lieutenant slowly enter the village together.
Victor A. Gangelin
Wiard B. Ihnen
Wesley V. Jefferies
Howard W. Koch
Gilbert L. May
John F. Schreyer
Richard Alan Simmons
Robert Stack, 1919-2003
Stack was born in Los Angeles on January 13, 1919 to a well-to-do family but his parents divorced when he was a year old. At age three, he moved with his mother to Paris, where she studied singing. They returned to Los Angeles when he was seven, by then French was his native language and was not taught English until he started schooling.
Naturally athletic, Stack was still in high school when he became a national skeet-shooting champion and top-flight polo player. He soon was giving lessons on shooting to such top Hollywood luminaries as Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, and found himself on the polo field with some notable movie moguls like Darryl Zanuck and Walter Wanger.
Stack enrolled in the University of Southern California, where he took some drama courses, and was on the Polo team, but it wasn't long before some influential people in the film industry took notice of his classic good looks, and lithe physique. Soon, his Hollywood connections got him on a film set at Paramount, a screen test, and eventually, his first lead in a picture, opposite Deanna Durbin in First Love (1939). Although he was only 20, Stack's natural delivery and boyish charm made him a natural for the screen.
His range grew with some meatier parts in the next few years, especially noteworthy were his roles as the young Nazi sympathizer in Frank Borzage's chilling The Mortal Storm (1940), with James Stewart, and as the Polish flier who woos a married Carole Lombard in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942).
After serving as a gunnery officer in the Navy during World War II, Stack returned to the screen, and found a few interesting roles over the next ten years: giving Elizabeth Taylor her first screen kiss in Robert Thorp's A Date With Judy (1948); the leading role as an American bullfighter in Budd Boetticher's The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951); and as a pilot in William Wellman's The High and the Mighty (1954), starring John Wayne. However, Stack saved his best dramatic performances for Douglas Sirk in two knockout films: as a self-destructive alcoholic in Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind (1956), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for supporting actor; and sympathetically portraying a fallen World War I pilot ace who is forced to do barnstorming stunts for mere survival in Tarnished Angels (1958).
Despite proving his capabilities as a solid actor in these roles, front rank stardom oddly eluded Stack at this point. That all changed when Stack gave television a try. The result was the enormously popular series, The Untouchables (1959-63). This exciting crime show about the real-life Prohibition-era crime-fighter Eliot Ness and his G-men taking on the Chicago underworld was successful in its day for several reasons: its catchy theme music, florid violence (which caused quite a sensation in its day), taut narration by Walter Winchell, and of course, Stack's trademark staccato delivery and strong presence. It all proved so popular that the series ran for four years, earned an Emmy for Stack in 1960, and made him a household name.
Stack would return to television in the late '60s, with the The Name of the Game (1968-71), and a string of made-for-television movies throughout the '70s. His career perked up again when Steven Spielberg cast him in his big budget comedy 1941 (1979) as General Joe Stillwell. The film surprised many viewers as few realized Stack was willing to spoof his granite-faced stoicism, but it won him over many new fans, and his dead-pan intensity would be used to perfect comic effect the following year as Captain Rex Kramer (who can forget the sight of him beating up Hare Krishnas at the airport?) in David and Jerry Zucker's wonderful spoof of disaster flicks, Airplane! (1980).
Stack's activity would be sporadic throughout the remainder of his career, but he returned to television, as the host of enormously popular Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2002), and played himself in Lawrence Kasden's comedy-drama Mumford (1999). He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Rosemarie Bowe Stack, a former actress, and two children, Elizabeth and Charles, both of Los Angeles.
by Michael T. Toole
Robert Stack, 1919-2003
The closing credits include the following written acknowledgment: "War Paint was photographed in its entirety in beautiful Death Valley National Monument, California, with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service. Without their help, this picture would not have been possible." Hollywood Reporter production charts include Neville Brand in the cast, but he did not appear in the released film.
The pressbook for the film erroneously boasts that it was the first feature-length picture ever to be filmed in Death Valley, CA. According to news items, War Paint was the first production of Howard Koch's company, K-B Productions, Inc. According to correspondence in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, an early draft of the screenplay contained a mercy killing scene to which PCA Director Joseph I. Breen objected.