"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Iroquois Trail (UA, 1950)


George is Hawkeye




 
 
I’m not a great fan of eighteenth-century sword-and-tricorn-hat movies myself. They are set too early and they are too Eastern to be true Westerns. Still, they were undoubtedly frontier stories and they did usually have fearsome Indians. Many were pretty tawdry Hollywood rehashes of James Fenimore Cooper tales, especially The Last of the Mohicans. Though put another way, the films cut out the reams and reams of sleep-inducing waffle (my word, Fenimore Cooper books could be long and boring) and just gave us the good bits.
 
JFC by Brady. He looks a real ray of sunshine, doesn't he?

George Montgomery was quite fond of these coonskin-hat-and-musket pictures. The same year as The Iroquois Trail he did Davy Crockett, Indian Scout (though that was a cheat, really, being set later and being more Western); in 1952 he returned to Fenimore Cooper (well, vaguely) in The Pathfinder, which we may review one day (though don't hold your breath), a Robert E Kent production released by Columbia; and in ’53 he saved the day in Fort Ti. Pawnee (aka Pale Arrow) in 1957 was quite an early one too, this time with George as the Indian.

George dons the coonskin cap again

The Iroquois Trail is just the nth reworking of The Last of the Mohicans, though with even more liberties taken than usual. At the typewriter for the adaptation was Richard Schayer, who was actually quite handy at cobbling up Western screenplays. The picture was a production of Edward and Bernard Small, and I must say, it is done with energy.

All-action poster
 
The director was Phil Carlson, who only helmed seven feature Westerns, the best probably being another Geroge Montgomery oater, the 1951 version of The Texas Rangers.
 
Phil directed

The 1750s. George is Nat Cutler, known by the name the Delawares have given him as Hawkeye. He and his blood brother Sagame (good old Monte Blue) come back to see Nat’s ma (Esther Somers). Her other son, Nat’s brother Tom (Don Garner), is a young soldier down in Albany ordered to carry vital dispatches to Fort William. General Montcalm (Marcel Gourmet, in his only ever film) up in Montreal is launching an attack down the St Lawrence and Hudson Valleys and Fort William must be warned. But two-timing skunk Sam Girty (John Doucette, making a brave stab at an English accent) and his henchman the Huron Chief Ogane (Sheldon Leonard) murder Tom en route and steal the dispatch, which of course falls into French hands.

Monte Blue is the Chingachgook-figure

Well, you know the story. Hawkeye and Sagame (no Chingachgook or Uncas), along with the perfidious Ogane (no Magua here either) take the daughter of the colonel commanding Fort William – this time it’s Col. Thorne (Paul Cavanagh), and there’s only one daughter, Marion (Brenda Marshall) – with a rather pompous English captain (in this version Capt. Jonathan West, played by Glenn Langan, Denver-born but again doing quite well with the accent) through perilous forest to the fort. It was a highly improbable plot device even in 1826 when it was written, and it hasn’t improved with Hollywood.

Brenda Marshall, at the time Mrs. William Holden, is the colonel's daughter, though born in 1915, she was no youthful maiden.
In 1940 she had been the fair Doña Maria, Errol Flynn's amour in The Sea Hawk.

Thanks to Hawkeye and his Delaware brother they make it but Montcalm launches an attack on the fort. The Brits are beset by treachery at every turn and run dangerously low on powder. Luckily Montcalm has a sense of British fair play. Phew.

The talented Henry Freulich was DP and he made the most of the low budget to give us some nice shots of San Bernadino National Forest locations, though of course a lot was done in the studio. Still, it doesn't look cheap.

The Indians all talk Ug-speak. Considering this was 1950, the same year as Broken Arrow, you might have hoped for a slightly more enlightened portrayal of Native Americans, but nope.

The bad guy. He even covets the white heroine. Well, my dears, imagine!

There’s a traitor in the fort (my lips are sealed as to whom), a caddish officer in the pay of the French, who is giving evil Ogane his orders. Hawkeye will unmask him, though, never fear.

It all climaxes, as such pictures often did, with a gripping canoe chase (the prototype for Bullitt), a hand-to-hand combat between Ogane and Hawkeye (guess who wins) and burgeoning amour between the posh English gal and the rough backwoodsman (the captain is frightfully decent about it) and they all lived HEA.

Brave and resourceful. Even the snobby Brit.

Well, well, nothing special, honestly, but it’s a brisk George Montgomery Western (or Westernish) and it has its moments. All in all, though, I think the Randolph Scott 1936 one was better. Click here to read about that one.

 

 

5 comments:

  1. A connection to consider is that the 1936 Randolph Scott version was produced by Edward Small as well, and a far better job than this thing. I could not get through it.

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  2. Yes, indeed. I liked it when the Smalls had that gigantic logo which screamed SMALL.
    Jeff

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  3. Another interesting choice,as I've never been able to source a watchable copy
    of this film I'll reserve judgement until possibly somebody releases this on Blu Ray,although I will not hold my breath on that score.
    I did see the film at a flea pit cinema in the 60's and found it a pretty decent
    entertainment. At least the film is superior to the dire DAVY CROCKETT INDIAN SCOUT
    which was just an excuse to re-cycle a ton of footage from KIT CARSON...more about
    that later.
    As much as I love THE TEXAS RANGERS my favourite Karlson Western is the superb
    GUNMAN'S WALK which I see that Jeff has more than done justice to.

    Now,if I may veer off topic but I understand that a French imprint called
    ESC Editions plan to release 20 Westerns (mostly on Blu Ray) in 2019.
    I have only obtained this info from various forums on a couple of French film
    sites. At any rate there are some pretty rare titles mentioned including the
    larger Small Production KIT CARSON. Also mentioned are the 1939 version of
    GERONIMO not supposed to be very good but one that I would love to see.
    Other titles include BADLANDS OF DAKOTA and RAILS INTO LARAMIE plus a couple of
    decent Universal pictures already out on DVD but here up-graded to Blu Ray
    BORDER RIVER and THE YELLOW MOUNTAIN. Also included is the McCrea version of
    THE VIRGINIAN which I would certainly like to see in high definition.
    I hope details become more clear nearer the intended release date.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting what you say about those French releases for 2019.
      The Seitz/Small KIT CARSON of 1940 is fun, if rather old-fashioned. See https://jeffarnoldblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/kit-carson-in-fact-and-fiction_15.html
      Paramount's 1930 GERONIMO is a generic cavalry/Indian movie in which the chief happens to be named Geronimo, not a true Geronimo story. Andy Devine is fun though. See https://jeffarnoldblog.blogspot.com/2016/09/geronimo-paramount-1939.html
      THE VIRGINIAN of 1946 was not the strongest version by any means, but McCrea always worth seeing and it's in nice color. See https://jeffarnoldblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/if-you-want-to-call-me-that-smile.html
      You can find reviews of the others you mention in the list at the top of the sidebar to the right.
      Jeff

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  4. Thanks for the links Jeff,as far as the vintage black & white pics go I will get
    BADLANDS OF DAKOTA but think I may pass on GERONIMO and KIT CARSON.

    ReplyDelete