Thursday, September 30, 2021
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
The first annual National Silent Movie Day has inspired Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Lea at Silent-ology to host The Silent Movie Day Blogathon this September 29th. Your journey begins HERE.
The scout Natty Bumppo, known as Hawkeye, along with his close friends Chingachgook and Uncas, the last of the Mohicans become embroiled in the conflict and the danger that surrounds the Munro family, Colonel, and two daughters.
Cooper's stories caught the imagination of filmmakers as early as 1910 and many adaptations for the big and small screens have been created in the hundred years since. 1920 saw a two-part German film that featured Bela Lugosi as Chingachgook. My contribution to The Silent Movie Day Blogathon is a look at the 1920 Hollywood film from Maurice Tourneur Productions.
The scenario for the film by Robert Dillon distills the epic story to the events surrounding the emotional and danger fraught story of the Munro sisters, Cora and Alice, along with the memorable characters of Uncas, Chingachgook, Hawkeye, and Magua. This story is enhanced by the location filming in Big Bear Lake, the San Bernardino Forest, and Yosemite National Park.
Maurice Tourneur whose background in the theatre and in classical art informed his filmmaking directed and released the film through his own production company formed in 1917. The Last of the Mohicans bears his distinctive hallmark of excellence regardless of the illness which forced assistant director Clarence Brown (The Yearling) to take over the duties of his revered mentor.
"Maurice Tourneur was my god. I owe him everything I've got in the world. For me, he was the greatest man who ever lived." - Clarence Brown
Magua: "Magua does not kill his prisoners - he tortures them!"
George Hackathorne, Barbara Bedford
Cora: "Surely among his own people he is a prince!"
Captain Randolph: "You! - The daughter of Colonel Munro! - admiring a filthy savage!"
Barbara Bedford plays Cora, Munro's dark-haired, devoted and romantic daughter. Her imagination has been taken by the appearance in their lives of Uncas played by Albert Roscoe.
Alice Munro played by Lillian Hall is a vivacious blonde protected by the love of her family and admired by the stalwart Major Heyward played by Henry Woodward.
As the group of the Monro sisters, Major Heyward and Magua split off from the troops they come across David Gamut played by Nelson McDowall. The awkwardness of the preacher/musician adds a touch of comic relief to the tense situation as the travelers come to realize that Magua is not their friend. Friends will be found in the forest in the scout Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and his son Uncas.
Despite the knowledge and experience of the rescuers, escaping Magua and his Huron confederates is no easy task. A night spent in a hidden cave is an uneasy time for all. However, Cora and Uncas find they have a shared attraction and compatible souls. How inconvenient when they are faced with such challenges.
Eventually, our beleaguered group reaches Fort William Henry at the same time as the troops. Those troops and Colonel Munro are betrayed by the cowardly Captain Randolph to Montcalm. Under a flag of truce, the French commander informs Colonel Munro that he is aware that the British defenses are not what they should be and that no further help is coming. Montcalm and the Huron leaders pledge that the women and children, and soldiers may leave the fort under protection to which Monro reluctantly agrees.
Emboldened by alcohol and the urging of the magnetic Magua, many Braves turn their back on the word of their leaders and ambush those leaving Fort William Henry. It is a brutal scene that has not been equaled by many movies since. Cora and Alice are kidnapped by Magua who is pursued by Uncas, Chingachgook, Hawkeye, Munro, and Heyward.
Magua seeks his rights through the Delaware council. It is judged that Cora rightfully belongs with the Mohican Uncas, a cousin of the Delaware but that Magua may take Alice as the spoils of war. The protective nature of her relationship with her sister is overwhelming and Cora offers to exchange herself for Alice. The Delaware offer Magua safe passage until sundown at which time Uncas vows to follow.
After almost 200 years since the novel's publication, I have no fear of spoiling the story which reaches its tragic climax on a rocky promontory where lovely and often misunderstood Cora and her valiant protector Uncas lose their lives. Vengeance of a sort comes to Chingachgook with the death of the hated Magua but it does not assuage his pain.
Chingachgook: "Woe for the race of red men! In the morning of life I saw the sons of my forefathers, happy and strong - and before nightfall I have seen the passing of the last of the Mohicans!"
The Last of the Mohicans, 1920 was placed on the National Film Registry for culturally significant films in 1995.
You may be interested in my piece on the 1936 version of The Last of the Mohicans. The Dudley Nichols screenplay was a strong influence on the popular 1992 film, and its retelling of the story which sets the romance on its head is familiar to most film fans.
Maurice Tourneur is the father of director Jacques Tourneur who gave us such classics as Out of the Past and Stars in My Crown.
Barbara Bedford and Albert (Alan) Roscoe (Cora and Uncas) were married from 1922 to 1928, and again from 1930 to 1933 when Roscoe passed at the age of 46. The only child for both was their daughter Barbara Edith Roscoe.
Friday, September 24, 2021
Alec Guinness as Mr. Holland (we may call him "Dutch") has carefully cultivated the persona of the loyal employee, the fussy little man with no imagination all the while devising schemes to rob his employers of the gold bullion under his watchful eyes. All that is required is a process in which the bullion may be smuggled to Europe.
While we cannot say with complete honesty that the heist goes off without a hitch, it does keep the police on their toes while the weeks pass, the bullion is transformed to mementos and the plan comes oh-so-close to fruition. We are so pleased to see that "Dutch" has made it to Rio de Janeiro and is obviously enjoying the good life. He has the regard of those who have an appreciation for his money, including the lovely and young Chiquita winningly played by 22-year-old Audrey Hepburn.
Friday, September 17, 2021
Crystal Kalyana is back and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting a blogathon tribute to the uniquely talented Anne Bancroft. The 90th birthdate celebration runs from September 17th to the 19th. Click HERE for the blogathon contributions.
The Raid, 1954 is a historical drama released by Twentieth Century Fox. The screenplay by Sidney Boehm (The Big Heat) is based on the story treatment of Francis M. Cockrell (Inferno) of the Herbert Ravenel Sass novel Affair at St. Albans. Hugo Fregonese (Saddle Tramp, Man in the Attic) directed. The Raid is based on a true incident that occurred during the American Civil War, the details of which are recounted here.
A group of Confederate prisoners led by Captain Benton played by Van Heflin escape their captors in New York State. There were eight altogether and six will make it across the border to Montreal in Canada. One of the soldiers refuses to go as he cannot condone their plans should the escape prove successful and another was killed. You win no prize for assuming that Lee Marvin as Lt. Keating is cast as the hothead. His character will bring trouble. Peter Graves as Capt. Dwyer is as dedicated and steady as their leader Benton.
When next we see Captain Benton he is posing as a Montreal businessman by the name of Neal Swayze. He has come to St. Albans on a reconnaissance mission. The Confederacy plans to bring the war to what they think of as the complacent North, to disrupt the flow of troops to the South, and to steal much-needed funds. St. Albans is planned to be the first of many such raids.
Benton/Swayze: "I didn't mean to stare at you but I had been told about Widow Bishop. I had expected an older lady."
Katy Bishop: "The war makes young widows."
One of the local bankers played by Will Wright advises the boarding house run by the Widow Bishop for good vittles and a clean atmosphere. It is here that Captain Benton will find more than he was looking for.
In honour of Anne Bancroft's 90th birthdate, we will focus on her role in The Raid. At this point in her burgeoning career, she was generally cast as "the woman," in the picture. Nonetheless, Anne Bancroft brought depth and interest to her characters that were not always apparent in the scripts as written. The character of Katy Bishop has clearly taken control of her life in the midst of tumultuous times providing a haven for her guests and friends and raising her young son played by Tommy Rettig.
The relationship between Katy and the Confederate raider is not one of those great movie romances, but a subtle meeting of compatible personalities that begins when the Montreal businessman, as he is known, inquires about land that may be available for purchase. The attraction is noted with chagrin by Captain Foster played by Richard Boone. He is a longtime friend of Katy's and the recruiting officer for the district having lost his left hand early in the conflict.
Benton, like most of the men under his command, has difficulty suppressing his hatred of the Yankees among whom he is living. However, as time wears on and plans for the raid are constantly being changed due to unforeseen challenges from Union Forces and from the explosive Lt. Keating, Captain Benton forges feelings for Katy, Tommy, and the town. His allegiance to the Confederacy has not lessened but he is beginning to appreciate the two sides to the conflict and he no longer fanatically craves the destruction of the entire town.
Van Heflin, Anne Bancroft
A violent incident precipitated by the desperate and irrational Lt. Keating places Captain Benton in a position where doing his duty for the Confederacy, he becomes a hero to the citizens of St. Albans. The look of pride and affection bestowed by Katy is perilously close to the love her friend Captain Foster fears she is feeling.
There is no stopping the raid, and there is no stopping Katy and Tommy from discovering the truth about the man they have let into their hearts. Captain Benton promises they will be safe and he practically begs for understanding as we hear the shouts and screams from the town square when the looting and arson begin.
The destruction around them is a time for Katy and for Captain Foster to display their courage. It is an opportunity for Captain Benton to do the same; can he stay true to his mission and not sink to barbarism? His personal letter left for Katy asks much of her.
Monday, September 6, 2021
I am taking a look at an episode of Wagon Train from the venerable western's first season with the accents of guest stars Jeannie Carson and Tudor Owen.
Special Guest Star Jeannie Carson plays Annie. Born into a show business family in Yorkshire in 1928, Jeannie became a musical star in the 1952 hit play Love from Judy. Stage success led to movies such as As Long as They're Happy and An Alligator Named Daisy, plus an invitation to do American television. Jeannie played a Scottish lass in her CBS television series Hey, Jeannie!, 1956, and here in The Annie MacGregor Story.
Tudor Owen (The Black Castle) plays Angus MacGregor, the head of the clan and a most headstrong fellow. Owen was born in Wales and studied at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts following Medical Corps. service in WWI. His Hollywood career began in the silent era and would eventually encompass not only film but television and particularly radio.
The MacGregors in our story have quit one wagon train due to the prejudices against foreigners they experienced from their fellow travelers. The experience has made Angus mistrustful of the genuine offer of help from Major Adams. Angus also bears animosity toward the scout who bears the name of Campbell due to a long-standing feud in the old country. Annie's romantic interest is played with sincerity by Richard "Be Still My Heart" Long.
This episode was written by Frank W. Marshall whose only other IMDb writing credit is for the fondly recalled The Seth Adams Story, a two-part episode of the series. The Annie MacGregor Story is one of several Wagon Train episodes directed by actor Mark Stevens (The Dark Corner).
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