Western about racial intolerance focuses around Kiowa claim that the Zachary daughter is one of their own, stolen in a raid. The dispute results in other whites turning their backs on the Zacharys when the truth is revealed by Mother. Cash, the hotheaded brother, reacts violently upon learning his "sister" is a "red-hide Indian." He leaves the family but returns to help them fight off an Indian raid. Written by
John Huston saw the film as an opportunity to make a serious comment on race relations, but the company thought anything along those lines should take a back seat to making it a commercial success as action/adventure. Burt Lancaster's biographer Gary Fishgall quotes two of Huston's biographers who assert that Huston did not quit because he needed his $300,000 salary to restore his Irish manor house and saw the location shoot as an opportunity to indulge his passion for pre-Columbian art. See more »
In the closeup scenes of Rachel, her false eyelashes are quite obvious. See more »
[yelling at a cow eating grass growing on the Zachary family's roof]
Shoo now! Shoo! Ain't you got no better manners than to eat at the top of a house?
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This film, The Unforgiven, as opposed to Clint Eastwood's classic is taken from a novel by Alan LeMay who also wrote The Searchers. Both stories are about the post Civil War Texas frontier. But in this one we have the Indians seeking out one of there's who's been taken by whites and raised as one of their own. The person in question is Audrey Hepburn who's been raised by Lillian Gish as her own daughter and sister to her three sons, Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, and Doug McClure.
It was an unwritten law of Hollywood that no one shoots a film in Monument Valley except John Ford. So John Huston made due with Durango in Mexico which had become a favorite western location site also. Huston got some good performances out of his cast although he had many problems.
Audrey Hepburn fell off a horse and was injured for a few weeks. Audie Murphy nearly drowned in a river. Topping it all off, according to a recent biography of Burt Lancaster was the fact that Lillian Gish served as a kind of back seat driver to John Huston. She was forever telling him that D.W. Griffith did this or that a different way. But apparently Ms. Gish was satisfied with the finished product because she acclaimed Huston as another Griffith when it was over.
The story really gets going when some Kiowas come knocking on Lillian Gish's door demanding Audrey Hepburn's return. When it's discovered that Hepburn in fact is an Indian, the reaction of the neighbors and some of the family is to send her back. Lancaster, Gish, and McClure aren't having it though.
The Unforgiven was butchered in the editing department. One role that was mostly left on the cutting room floor apparently was John Saxon as a halfbreed named Johnny Portugal. Standing out though is Joseph Wiseman as the crazy ex-cavalryman now turned preacher who has a hate for Audrey Hepburn. Why he does you'll have to see the film, but it's an interesting problem.
Its parts, its individual performances make The Unforgiven an uneven film where the whole is not greater than the sum of those parts.
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