Follow TV Tropes


Film / Across the Wide Missouri

Go To

Across the Wide Missouri is a 1951 film directed by William A. Wellman.

The setting is 1829-30 in the Rocky Mountains, when the area was largely empty of white people. Some of the few white people in the region are fur trappers, like Flint Mitchell (Clark Gable). Flint is the unofficial leader of a "brigade" of fur trappers, who band together for safety. At a rendezvous with other fur trappers, Flint meets Kamilah, the lovely adopted daughter of a Nez Perce chief. Flint marries her, largely to encourage friendly relationship with the Nez Perce and Blackfeet, but love blossoms.

Flint runs in to a bloodthirsty Blackfoot brave, Ironshirt (Ricardo Montalbán) who kills one of his friends. However, Kamilah's grandfather Bear Ghost is the Blackfoot chief, and he and Flint make friends. Unfortunately one of Flint's fellow trappers kills Bear Ghost, putting Ironshirt in charge of the Blackfeet and setting up a violent confrontation.


  • Bar Brawl: Basically the outdoor equivalent thereof, as the meetup of trappers that opens the film includes a long, comic, massive brawl, when drunken trappers get to fighting.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Flint has found his friend killed by the Blackfeet. He is in the process of inscribing his friend's name on a tree over the grave when a knife goes thunk into that same tree. Flint turns to see the Blackfeet who killed his friend right behind him.
  • Brick Joke: Flint gives Kamilah's father a full-on suit of armor, complete with helmet, in return for her hand. When the big fight breaks out soon after, he strides unconcerned through the melee, rocks and fists clanging off his armor.
  • Brownface: As was custom in the studio era, white people and Mexicans play Native Americans.
  • Chekhov's Gun: On the way to the trapper rendezvous, Kamilah is seen transporting little Chip in a papoose carrier tied to the saddle. This becomes important moments later, when the Blackfeet attack and Kamilah is shot by an arrow and killed. Her horse panics and goes galloping off, carrying the baby along, and both Ironshirt and Flint give chase.
  • Corporal Punishment: After the Blackfeet led by Ironshirt steal the trapper's horses, Kamilah goes charging off on a horse on her own to get them back. Nothing bad happens, but when Flint finally finds her, he gives her a spanking.
  • Dawn of the Wild West: Set 1829-30 as white people were making their first tentative forays into the Rockies.
  • Distant Finale: The ending skips forward several years to find Flint as a mentor for other trappers headed into the Rockies, while Chip aged from a toddler to a boy of school age.
  • Going Native: Brecan, a white man, has basically gone native and lives with the Nez Perce as one of them.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The climax has Ironshirt and Flint stalking each other in the forest. Flint takes a shot at Ironshirt and misses, and that's bad, because he's holding an 1830 musket that has only one shot. Ironshirt turns around and runs at him, hatchet in hand, while Flint frantically struggles to load a second bullet. Finally Flint is forced to pull the trigger with the ramrod still in the barrel—and the ramrod goes clear through Ironshirt's chest and is sticking out his back.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Everyone who gets shot in this movie falls over and dies immediately in the classic style. There's even an Instant Death Knife when Flint struggles with a Blackfoot.
  • Mood Whiplash: A Christmas celebration in the fort has the men singing "Alouette" around a campfire before wishing each other Merry Christmas. The watchman atop the tower cheerfully shouts down at his fellow trappers, "Merry Christmas!", and then he shot square in the chest by an arrow and killed. Ironshirt was lurking in the woods outside, apparently just to keep the white men on their toes.
  • Mountain Man: A whole movie about mountain men, hunting and trapping in the Rockies. Although, unlike most mountain men, they are not completely solitary, going so far as to build a fort to wait out the winter.
  • Narrator: The voice of Flint's grown-up son Chip provides narration throughout. Reportedly this was done to help make the story more coherent after a 135-minute director's cut was chopped down to 78 minutes by MGM.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The final shot has the camera panning up to the clouds while Chip in narration talks about how his dad was one of the great trappers of the era.
  • Satellite Character: Brecan as introduced as a white man who has gone native and lives with the Nez Perce. He asks for Kamilah's hand, but she and her father choose Flint instead—and that is basically it for Brecan as a character in the story. Given that nearly an hour was cut from this film by the studio, it seems likely that John Hodiak's part was greatly reduced.
  • Scenery Porn: Shot on location in the Colorado Rockies and showing off some extremely impressive color photography.