The Canadians (1961 film)

The Canadians is a 1961 Anglo-Canadian CinemaScope Western film written and directed by Burt Kennedy. It starred Robert Ryan, John Dehner and Torin Thatcher.

The Canadians
Movie poster
Directed byBurt Kennedy
Produced byHerman E. Webber
Written byBurt Kennedy
StarringRobert Ryan
John Dehner
Torin Thatcher
Music byDouglas Gamley
CinematographyArthur Ibbetson
Edited byDouglas Robertson
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
11 March 1961
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

It was Kennedy's directorial debut.


A group of Sioux come to shelter in Canada from the Indian wars in the United States following Custer's last stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. They are given permission to remain by the Canadian government represented by three Mounties. Caucasian Indian-fighters from Montana searching for 40 stolen horses discover the Sioux settlement and mistakenly assume their horses are theirs. In the white men's surprise attack they murder many Indians, steal many horses, and kidnap an integrated white young woman recognized as having been kidnapped in a raid years earlier. The Mounties promise justice, track, capture, and begin the week-long ride to a trial at court. During the week tables turn back and forth, backstories shared, some discussion about American gun culture and violence, and the woman is killed. Eventually the Caucasian Americans are lured to what may be their lost horses but a stampede erupts and the Sioux manage drive the white men over the cliff like buffalos to their death. Without a shot fired and the deal maintained the Sioux remain in Canada while the Mounties return to their fort where the senior will finally retire.

In response the North-West Mounted Police are formed, the forerunner to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.[1]



The film was the directorial debut of Burt Kennedy, who had established himself by the late 1950s as one of the leading writers of Westerns.[2] It was originally called Royal Canadian Mounted.[3]

Kennedy later recalled, "I didn't know what I was doing. I remember the first shot had like 400 horses in it, and I got the shot and the cameraman said, 'What do we do now?' And I thought, 'You mean I gotta do more?' So that's the reason I went into television [after The Canadians] to find out how you shoot pictures."[4]

He also said "I had a wonderful cameraman... it was beautiful country... the story was pretty good actually, because it was based on an actual event, but - I was so used to playing scenes in Randy [Randolph Scott] pictures, I thought I could get away with them. But I couldn't. You can play good scenes with bad actors and (they're going to be) bad scenes. So I trapped myself... [Robert Ryan looked] like he didn't know what he was doing. It wasn't his fault. He was so grim in it. And the picture was so grim." [5]


  1. The Canadians, IMDB
  2. Galloway, Doug (21 February 2001). "Writer-helmer Burt Kennedy dies". Variety.
  3. Scheuer, P. K. (1960, Sep 05). Showman divulges first-aid program. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. "How I Got to Call the Shots –".
  5. Joyner, C. Courtney (2009). The Westerners: Interviews with Actors, Directors, Writers and Producers. McFarland. p. 135. ISBN 9780786455683.
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