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There is an imaginative quality in this picture that makes a very strong appeal. The impression that it leaves is pleasing and it is slowly cumulative. Each scene is effective as a natural part of a human story and when we have seen them all the memory has a story as a whole and hot merely a broken recollection of two or three poetic pictures in a collection that has not been accepted as true of life. The poetic pictures are there, but only as integral parts of a poetic story. The picture is a romance with an Indian, Little Dove, for its heroine. A white man comes into her life. She chances to be passing when he fires at a bird and her gun-shy horse throws her, spraining her ankle. The girl is helped by the man to his camp beside the lake, while the girl's horse, riderless, returns to the Indian village and the chief, Little Dove's father, takes up the trail with some of his braves and finds her at the camp. There's a misunderstanding, which is natural enough, and which Little Dove very quickly straightens. The following scenes carry the story along speedily, though, as a part of it, something of Indian manners and customs is shown. This element of instructiveness is particularly pleasing in Bison Indian pictures. Many of their scenes exhibit aboriginal handicraft, porcupine quill and beadwork and basketry, not merely because the property man has good specimens of this in stock, but in a way that shows a sympathetic understanding of the Indian mind. It is informing, but its presence seems solely to fill an artistic need. It gives reality to the picture. All would have gone well at the camp and Indian village had not the white man's half- breed cook fallen passionately in love with Little Dove. She would have felt a flitting, romantic attachment for the white man that would have been forgotten when he and his hunting companions had departed from the wild lake. She would have married her right mate, a young brave of the village. But the half-breed attempts to abduct her by force and is carrying her away in his canoe when her lover sees them and in another bark canoe gives chase. The half- breed is the better paddler. He would have got away had not the two white men also seen the chase. They follow and together they overtake the half-breed, whom they wound, but who escapes, leaving Little Dove. These chase scenes are not made a feature and. while fairly strong scenes, are the lesser part of a very human story. In what may well be termed a pretty third act. Little Dove, in a pleasing way, makes love to the white man. Her own lover is standing in the background looking on, not at all comfortable or happy, but from a sense of the fitness of things, not venturing to interfere. The white man is wise. He explains to Little Dove that it would not do for him to marry her. He and his companion then depart. Little Dove has a photograph of the white man, given to her when they first met. She draws it out. The Indian brave comes to her quietly and, taking it, tears it up while he explains to her that it would be foolish for her to keep it; that she must marry one of her own people, must marry him. She understands and seems well pleased. The backgrounds of the story are very beautiful. It is a wild lake with clear waters which reflect the rough, wooded hills that hem it in. These hills seem grown with pines and look as though they had been burned over half a score of years previously. The camp is filled with delightful suggestions. It made this reviewer hungry to smell a fire of pine limbs with coffee and frying salmon. It's as natural as life. - The Moving Picture World, September 9, 1911
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even before Thomas Ince's arrival and the production of more elaborate westerns at New York Motion Picture Corp., some memorable films had been made, as I outline in my biography of Ince. Big Bear Lake provides a distinctive location for Little Dove's Romance (Bison). Several white men are on a hunting trip, and one of them notices an Indian girl fall from her horse. He takes the injured girl back to his camp, where the Indians find later find her, and a potential confrontation is averted when Little Dove explains how she has been cared for. Gifts are brought in thanks, and Little Dove keeps a photograph of her rescuer, even though she has an Indian fiancée. After the hunters depart, one of them, an Indian renegade, returns and abducts Little Dove. Her fiancée pursues, and after a fight Little Dove is rescued. Back with her own people, however, Little Dove longs for her white rescuer. She rows back to their camp, weeping over the photograph. Her fiancée follows her, tears up the picture, and the couple reconcile. The love triangle is convincing and affecting, with the various ways in which the white and Indian meet and mingle delineated in a convincing manner. In Little Dove's Romance, the two groups respect and willingly care for one another, whether the white who rescues Little Dove, or her feeling more than gratitude to him. It is only the renegade who violates the code. At the same time, there is respect for tradition with Little Dove staying with her people and Indian fiancée. Adding to the emotional impact of the story to the audience is the lake locale, providing a true sense of the frontier and one different from most western backgrounds.
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