"Hugh Glass Meets the Bear," a 1966 episode of "Death Valley Days," tells basically the same story that would be told 50 years later in Alejandro González Iñárritu's 2015 film, THE REVENANT, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Hugh Glass. Glass was a renowned fur trapper and explorer, aka "mountain man," in the early years of the 19th century (he died in 1833) and his story has also been told in the 1971 film, MAN OF THE WILDERNESS, where he was played by Richard Harris. In "Hugh Glass Meets the Bear," Glass (John Alderson) is recruited by Major Henry (Tris Coffin) at Fort Kiowa to lead a scouting party through Indian territory to find a trail to Fort Henry at the mouth of the Yellowstone. In the course of the journey, he also employs his skills at hunting to kill game and secure meat for the party without firing shots that would alert nearby Indians. At one point, Glass scouts ahead to find water and is confronted at a stream by a bear who attacks him and leaves him badly mauled in a scene shot on location with a real bear (although closeups of Glass in the near-fatal embrace feature a stuffed bear). Two of the men, Fitzpatrick (Morgan Woodward) and Glass's protégé, Jim Bridger (Carl Reindel), are convinced that Glass, seen unconscious with bloody claw marks on his face, is mortally wounded and beyond hope and they leave him behind, going so far as to take his rifle. Glass slowly revives and has to make his way back to the fort, bitter at being left behind without a weapon in such a seemingly callous manner, especially since he'd done so much to mentor Bridger, then 19 years old, who would become a famous mountain man, scout and explorer in his own right. There's not much more to it than that, with very little time spent on Glass's journey back, and it's all told in a tidy 25 minutes. The new film takes 156 minutes to tell pretty much the same tale, in much greater detail, of course, and it casts Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald, the real-life figure whom Fitzpatrick, in the TV episode, is based on, and Will Poulter as Jim Bridger. (In the TV episode, Bridger actually addresses Fitzpatrick as "Fitzgerald" in one scene.) I suspect that the real story of Glass's encounter with the bear and his journey back to Fort Kiowa lies somewhere between the simplified "Death Valley Days" episode and the R-rated THE REVENANT.
The terrain they travel in the TV episode, on locations in Kanab, Utah, seems pretty benign throughout, shot in sun-drenched color, with nary a drop of snow in sight, as opposed to the snow-covered landscape in THE REVENANT. (The actual events took place in South Dakota.) John Alderson plays Glass with a beard and wears clean buckskin, but doesn't look particularly grizzled otherwise (he was 50 at the time). He was an English actor who was active in Hollywood from 1951 to 1990 and I was unfamiliar with him when I saw this episode, even though I've seen several of his credits. This coming April 10th will mark his centennial. (He died in 2006.) The rest of the cast includes three familiar faces, the aforementioned Woodward and Coffin, as well as Victor French.
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