The Last of the Mohicans (1920) – reviewed by George

Directed by Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown with a screenplay by Robert Dillon, this 39 minute silent movie manages to cram in the basic storyline pretty well. Then you find out that the original running time was 73 minutes, so someone has cut the film down to the nut – no more shell at all. And the print on the dvd I got from Netflix was direly in need of restoration. It’s during the French and Indian Wars, and the French are trying to take the country with the aid of disaffected Indian tribes, like the Hurons. The British are fighting back, but in some areas the need to move troops around is daunting.
As far as the plot is concerned I have gotten totally confused, what with the abridged film I saw, the Wikipedia summation of the film, and the imdb.com outline. For instance I thought Fort William Henry was where the movie starts with a social occasion where we meet the daughters of the fort commander Colonel Munro (James Gordon). They are sensible Cora (Barbara Bedford) and capricious Alice (Lillian Hall). Alice is being hovered over by Captain Randolph (George Hackathorne), whom I took to be a bit of a cad. But one of the summaries said that the trip to get the girls to safety was TO Fort William Henry. So I’ll limit myself to bare bones discussion.
There are three heroes: Chingachgook (Theodore Lerch), former chief of a tribe (the Mohicans) which has been almost completely wiped out – only Chingachgook and his son Uncas (Albert Roscoe) remain. They travel with their friend, the scout Hawkeye (Harry Lorraine) carrying messages from British fort to British fort, and fighting the French whenever necessary, and I sort of made some of that up (it’s a decent assumption).
There is one major villain, Magua, played here by Wallace Beery.
Colonel Munro and his men must travel to help General Webb (or maybe Fort William Henry is about to be attacked and they are outnumbered), and the Munro girls are to take a safer route than traveling with the army, after which they will rejoin their father. Magua wants Cora, so he plans to lead the small party into a trap. Captain Randolph is given the chance to go along with the girls’ small detachment, but the says, “With your permission, sir, I will ride with my men. My duty lies with them.” (he has gotten a close look at Magua).
The small group protecting the girls runs into a pouring rain and then meets our three heroes. The men are very happy to see a scout of their own, since Magua has become lost. The reply? “Impossible! Were he blind he would nose the earth and every blade of grass would tell the way.” Hawkeye goes to meet the impossible Indian, and finds Magua has left. He tells the soldiers of the trap he senses.
The score (which I guess is by Arthur Kay) is quite good. Because of the difficulties sussing out the plot, and because I shouldn’t spoil anything, I am stopping here. The plan all along was to review three versions, and while this one is satisfactory, even though confusing (but only after I started trying to name the actors), I’m hoping the other two will be clearer.

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