#91) The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
OR “Seven Years’ Bore”
Directed by Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown
Written by Robert A. Dillon. Based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper.
Class of 1995
The Plot: In the midst of the French and Indian War, title character Uncas (Alan Roscoe) and a white man raised by the Mohicans named Hawkeye (Harry Lorraine) are sent by the English to escort Cora and Alice Munro (Barbara Bedford & Lillian Hall) to their father (James Gordon) at Fort William Henry. They are thwarted along the way by Cora’s jilted suitor Captain Randolph (George Hackathorne) and Huron Indian Chief Magua (Wallace Beery), an ally of the French Army. In the middle of all of this, Cora starts to fall for Uncas.
Why It Matters: The NFR says that the film “astutely balanced the romantic angle with plenty of action sequences, albeit often stereotypical and brutal.” Their description also mistakenly identifies director Maurice Tourneur as his son (and fellow film director) Jacques Tourneur. Whoops.
But Does It Really?: Many (including Cooper himself in his later years) called the novel unreadable, and this film adaptation, while not unwatchable, is a real slog. I can’t tell if it’s just the limitations of the silent film medium, or if the film as a whole just hasn’t aged well. Regardless, I really can’t find a compelling argument to preserve this film. There are other film versions of this novel (see “Legacy” below) and other opportunities to preserve the works of this cast and crew. I suspect it’s on here due to a restoration of the film in 1993, two years prior to its induction, which was probably only initiated because of the success of the 1992 film version. Who knows?
Everybody Gets One: Barbara Bedford and Alan Roscoe were married not too long after working together on this film. They divorced, but re-married two years later and stayed together until Roscoe’s death in 1933.
Wow, That’s Dated: You mean besides having all of the Native Americans played by white people in redface? I feel like we should just focus on that one.
- Director Maurice Tourneur also directed the fantasy film (and fellow NFR entry) “The Blue Bird”. An injury on the set of this film led to his assistant Clarence Brown taking over the picture, and a 32-year directing career began.
- Barbara Bedford has a face for silent movies. She may be the only actor in this film aware that the audience has to be able to see your face.
- Why would you invite along someone who admits he is just going to sing psalms the whole time?
- The action scenes help pick things up a little bit, but they are few and far between. And how many of these scenes are going to end with two people rolling down a hill?
- As with a lot of silent films based on novels, this film really doesn’t know how to adapt to a different medium. So much of the visual translation is muddled, and so little of the pertinent text from the book is displayed as title cards.
- The novel has been remade several times over the years, most notably a 1936 version starring Randolph Scott as Hawkeye, and the 1992 version with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role.
- This prequel
- Bonus Clip: Perhaps the best line reading in film history.