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The Call of the Wild (1908)

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George Redfeather, the hero of this subject, returns from Carlisle, where he not only graduated with high honors, but was also the star of the college football team. At a reception given in... See full summary »

Director:

D.W. Griffith

Writers:

D.W. Griffith, Jack London (novel)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Charles Inslee ... George Redfeather
Harry Solter Harry Solter ... Lieutenant Penrose
Florence Lawrence ... Gladys Penrose
George Gebhardt George Gebhardt ... Indian Agent / Indian
John R. Cumpson ... Chinese Servant
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Charles Gorman Charles Gorman
Arthur V. Johnson ... Party Guest / Indian
Claire McDowell ... Party Guest
Mack Sennett ... Party Guest / Indian
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Storyline

George Redfeather, the hero of this subject, returns from Carlisle, where he not only graduated with high honors, but was also the star of the college football team. At a reception given in his honor by Lieut. Penrose, an Indian agent, the civilized brave meets Gladys, the lieutenant's daughter, and falls desperately in love with her. You may be sure he is indignantly repulsed by Gladys and ordered from the house for his presumption by her father. With pique he leaves, and we next find him in his own room, crushed and disappointed, for he realizes the truth: "Good enough as a hero, but not as a husband." What was the use of his struggle? As he reasons, his long suppressed nature asserts itself and he hears the call of the wild: "Out there is your sphere, on the boundless plains, careless and free, among your kind and kin, where all is truth." Here he sits; this nostalgic fever growing more intense every second, until in a fury he tears off the conventional clothes he wears, donning in... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Genres:

Short | Action

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 October 1908 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Coytesville, New Jersey, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Version of Call of the Wild (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

Not London calling this time....
8 March 2017 | by kekseksaSee all my reviews

As is quite clear from the summary, this D. W. Griffith film has nothing whatever (except for the coincidence of the title) to do with the 1903 Jack London novel.It is rather a distinctly racist tale of a "civilised" native American who falls in love with a white girl ("You may be sure" says Movie Picture World, with a tinge of irony however "that he is indignantly repulsed....for his presumption") goes rather abruptly "native" again as a result of his disappointment and after a few slurps of some handily-available "firewater" (he takes the bottle with him to share with his muckers in the forest). The band of drunken Indians go in chase of the girl (she is out for a ride) but, when reminded of the spirit in the sky, the chastened hero refrains from raping her.

Native Americans come somewhat higher in Griffith's ethnic pecking-order than African Americans and many of his films treat them sympathetically and even show an awareness of their ill-treatment. While for Griffith African Americans simply had to be kept in tier place, native Americans were at least in theory "civilisable". Coupling with the savage, in US tradition, was not entirely desirable but it was not totally unthinkable (it was hardly possible to deny the fact that western pioneers frequently found themselves native American wives). There was of course in reality even more miscegenation where African Americans were considered but this was largely furtive and had to be furiously denied. There is no question here of the college graduate Redfeather being marriageable but his ability to abstain (albeit with difficulty) from raping a white girl might itself be considered to represent, in Griffith's terms, a slight advance on the eugenic ladder.

For good measure, the film also contains an appalling caricature of a Chinese servant.

The problem of native Americans caught between the two worlds was a very real one but this is a particularly unserious and insensitive treatment of the subject, certainly when compared with the much more interesting later films on the same theme made by Thomas Ince (the excellent The Lieutenant's Last Fight of 1912 and The Last of the Line 1914) Jack London was not by any means the first novelist to be adapted for the screen. One might cite Dickens (1901), Jules Verne (1902, 1907 Méliès), Jonathan Swift (1902, Méliès), Harriet Beecher Stowe (1903), Daniel Defoe (1903 Méliès), E. W. Hornung (1905), Victor Hugo (1905) and Lew Wallace (1907).

But London was certainly an early favourite of US film-makers and amongst the first contemporary novelists to have his work filmed. Kalem made a version of The Sea Wolf in 1907, D. W. Griffith did indeed produce a film in 1908 based on a London short story (For Love of Gold) and another in 1912 (Man's Genesis) and yet another in 1913 (Two Men of the Desert). Perhaps the most important London-fan amongst early film-makers was actor/director Hobart Bosworth who was an enormous admirer of the novelist, made a feature version of The Sea Wolf in 1913 and would go on to film a significant part of London's work (John Barleycorn, Martin Eden, The Valley of the Moon, An Odyssey of the North, Burning Daylight). The Call of the Wild was not filmed until 1923 (by Fred Jackman for Hal Roach).


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