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.