Captain Wynnegate leaves England, accepting the blame for embezzling charity funds though knowing that his cousin Sir Henry is guilty. Out West he and the Indian girl Nat-U-Rich save each other from the evil cattle rustler Cash Hawkins and marry. Lady Diana shows up to announce Sir Henry's death. After Nat-U-Rich's suicide Wynnegate takes his half-breed son and Lady Diana back to England as the new Earl of Kerhill. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Early in the film, when Captain James Wynnegate (played by Dustin Farnum) is on board the sailing ship, he writes a note asking that a "check" enclosed with the note be cashed for him. Since Captain Farnum is an Englishman, he would have spelled the word as "cheque", the standard British spelling. (Moreover, the handwriting in the note is scarcely that of an educated British military officer: the lines of writing are crooked and the letters are crudely formed.) See more »
This is an adaptation of a stage play--an awful melodrama, which incorporates the Western and flirts with taboo love--adultery and miscegenation. Apparently, Oscar Apfel was doing poorly at teaching Cecil B. DeMille how to direct; there's plenty of outside filming, which is supposed to be a benefit of California, yet this movie is remarkably inept in how the framing of outside scenes is as theatrical as the scenes inside. Of course, it was a commercial success, leading DeMille to remake it twice, and is now a footnote in film history. Probably of more consequence than it being a feature-length film made in Hollywood, unoriginal reinforcement though it was, is the movie's soap opera histrionics coupled with a Caucasian playing a Native-American.
The actors of this movie protrude what their characters would be doing or feeling via gestures, staring at nothing and other magnified histrionics; they're trying to communicate the plot to the audience despite silence and a distanced camera. There's no realism, subtlety, nor, even, characters. The directors and actors of "The Squaw Man" blunder further by misunderstanding the silence concept. Silent films are silent to us, but the fictional world within a silent film is usually not silent. (Likewise, we still hear the music scores in modern films while the characters in the fictional world don't.) In this film, there are some awkward moments when a character lingers behind unnoticed, or is transparently suspicious-looking, but that happens to be when everyone is looking at something else. Yet, I suppose they still do that in soap operas.
In defence of DeMille, it was his first film, and senior director Apfel surely deserves more blame. One learns from imitation, and there weren't many worth imitating then. There was no indication in "The Adventures of Dolly" that Griffith would become the best director in the world. To see DeMille's potential, watch the subsequent year's "The Cheat". Its story is also wanting, flirts with adultery and miscegenation and is driven by embezzlement from charity, but, otherwise, the films couldn't be more different.
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