Distant Drums

Distant Drums is a 1951 American Florida Western film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gary Cooper. It is set during the Second Seminole War in the 1840s, with Cooper playing an Army captain who destroys a fort held by the Spanish gunrunners then retreats into the Everglades while pursued.

Distant Drums
Distant Drums movie poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byRaoul Walsh
Produced byMilton Sperling
Written byNiven Busch
Martin Rackin
StarringGary Cooper
Richard Webb
Mari Aldon
Arthur Hunnicutt
Carl Harbaugh
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographySidney Hickox
Edited byFolmar Blangsted
United States Pictures
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Paramount Pictures(via Republic Pictures)
Release date
  • December 29, 1951 (1951-12-29) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.85 million (US rentals)[1]

The actual location of the fort in the film was the historic Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, where most of the filming took place.

The enduring legacy of the film is that it contains the earliest known use of the Wilhelm scream sound effect, originally used to vocalize a character being bitten by an alligator.[2]


Mari Aldon and Richard Webb in Florida for the movie premiere.

In 1840, U.S. Army General Zachary Taylor sends out naval Lieutenant Tufts and scout Monk to a remote Florida island home, where the reclusive Captain Quincy Wyatt lives with a 5-year-old son.

The soldiers' mission is to destroy an old Spanish fort used by gunrunners, and rescue men and women taken prisoner by Seminole warriors. One of them, Judy Beckett, develops a romantic attraction to Capt. Wyatt as they flee the Natives into the Everglades.

Most of the other Army troops are massacred after Wyatt and Tufts separate from them to construct canoes. Back at his home, Wyatt is distraught to find that his son is gone. He has an underwater fight to the death with Seminole chief Ocala, then is relieved to learn that his boy is safe.



  1. ^ "Top Box-Office Hits of 1952", Variety, January 7, 1953
  2. ^ Lee, Steve (2005-05-17). "The WILHELM Scream". hollywoodlostandfound.net. Retrieved 2009-06-23.

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