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Fighting Blood (1911)

An old soldier on the frontier, the father of a dozen children, a staunch patriot himself, brings these children up with rigid military training. He conducts his household as a garrison ... See full summary »

Director:

D.W. Griffith

Writer:

Zane Grey (novel)
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Cast

Credited cast:
George Nichols ... The Old Soldier
Kate Bruce ... The Old Soldier's Wife
Robert Harron ... The Old Soldier's Son
Florence La Badie ... The Son's Girlfriend
Francis J. Grandon Francis J. Grandon ... The Son's Girlfriend's Father
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lionel Barrymore
Clara T. Bracy Clara T. Bracy
William J. Butler William J. Butler ... A Settler
Edward Dillon ... The Wagon Driver
Gladys Egan ... One of the Children
Dell Henderson ... A Soldier
Wilfred Lucas
Mae Marsh
Alfred Paget ... A Soldier / Among Indians
W.C. Robinson W.C. Robinson ... A Settler
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Storyline

An old soldier on the frontier, the father of a dozen children, a staunch patriot himself, brings these children up with rigid military training. He conducts his household as a garrison with strict discipline, drills, etc. On the evening of the day the picture opens, the oldest boy wishes to go out to make a call on his sweetheart, but the old soldier commands the boy to stay at home. This command the boy is loath to obey, but his father, himself brought up under rigid military rule, rails at his insubordination of the boy, and threatens that if the boy goes out he goes for good. The boy does go, however, and returning finds sure enough the door barred against him. Sad and homeless he wanders, but it is fortunate he goes for the next morning he views from a distance a tribe of Indians starting out on the warpath. With this lead, he with valiant effort, secures the aid of a troop of patrolling soldiers, who rescue the boy's family and sweetheart just in time. The military training ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Plot Keywords:

melodrama | native american | See All (2) »

Genres:

Short | Action | Western

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 June 1911 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Biograph Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Fighting Blood": Great early Western, not History and not Zane Grey
7 August 2015 | by DLewisSee all my reviews

"Sioux" could apply, in the old school context, to any Native Americans living in "the Dakota Hills" where this film is set, and they are the faceless villains in this story. The good guys are a frontier family led by an elderly Civil War veteran, Ezra Tuttle (George Nichols), who drills his large family in military fashion day after day. Tuttle's oldest son (Robert Harron) tires of the endless military routine and goes A.W.O.L., much to the consternation of his father, in order to visit his sweetheart. Not long after the boy and girl part, the aforementioned Sioux attack, and the family take their places within the cabin to fend off the invaders. There is gun smoke aplenty, some obscuring the audience view, yet both Indians and defenders bite the dust in high numbers. The boy gets separated from his sweetheart's family and manages to repel an attack from two particularly persistent Indians. Once free to do so, he collects the Cavalry in hopes of saving his family, battling on valiantly in their tiny cabin as it fills up with smoke and fire.

The attribution of this story to Zane Grey is puzzling; he never wrote a novel called "Fighting Blood," and indeed hadn't even published "Riders of the Puple Sage" when this film made its bow in 1911. The adult western novel was still then an infant; Owen Wister's "The Virginian" -- widely regarded as the first in its genre -- had only appeared in 1903. "Fighting Blood" was filmed during one of the Biograph Company's annual junkets to Southern California in search of sun and scenery, and most likely Griffith wrote this scenario himself or bought it from a local author. He may have cribbed some elements for its story from one of the many dime novels about the Sioux Wars or from a popular stage play that dealt with an Indian attack; there were many of those also, at the time. The character of Tuttle may have been modeled after Griffith's own father, Colonel "Roaring Jake" Griffith, an old Civil War soldier that died in 1885. But, if so, one thing that Griffith didn't right was that the main Sioux resistance was over by 1878, not affording much of a chance for his Civil War veteran to grow old. Given the son's age, the earliest these events could've happened would be the mid-1880s, when Indian attacks of this scale were not occurring in the Dakotas.

For 1911, "Fighting Blood" is impressive in every way except that the camera never gets close enough to the actors to provide much in the way of facial expressions, though Harron manages to make an impression. The two actors most often credited with this property are Mae Marsh and Lionel Barrymore but, unless Barrymore is playing an Indian, then neither of them are in it. Griffith is reaching for bigger things here, and it is amazing that he and cinematographer Billy Bitzer are able to get so much action into a one-reel subject. Griffith also maintains interest by focusing on the smallest of the children and giving them a little screen time, which adds levity to what would be a rather grim subject. This was made only eight years after "The Great Train Robbery" and there is a dazzling array of shots, complex cross-cutting and dangerous looking stunts to be found in its eleven minutes. There is little doubt that fledgling Western film-makers -- such as Francis Ford and Thomas Ince -- also saw it, as the techniques used here surfaced in their films as well. "Fighting Blood" is a critically important, and still very early, film western as long as you don't mistake it for anything that really happened. Or for Zane Grey.


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