Based on Guitry's own stage play about a sanctimonious fellow who eventually's victimized by his own hypocrisy. Little effort's made to "cinematize" the property, which's filmed just as it was staged. .
In 1763, felon Abby Hale is sentenced to slavery in America. In Virginia, heroic Capt. Holden buys her, intending to free her, but villain Garth foils this plan, and Abby toils at Dave Bone's tavern. Garth is fomenting an Indian uprising to clear the wilderness of settlers, giving him a monopoly of the fur trade. Holden discovers Garth's treachery, but cannot prove anything against him. Can Holden and Abby save Fort Pitt from the Senecas? Many hairbreadth escapes.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Production was nicknamed "The Perils of Paulette" on the Paramount lot. See more »
Near the end of the movie, when Gary Cooper is shooting Howard Da Silva in the barn, he shoots him, then when he draws his other gun, another shot is heard. This kills Da Silva, even though Cooper is only holding the gun, not pulling the trigger. See more »
Cecil B. DeMille undoubtedly believed in Manifest Destiny, and not just of the old-fashioned, land-grabbing, Injun-fighting variety depicted here. He also believed in a modern equivalent of his own, whereby he took his share, made his mark and crowned himself a king of the movie industry he had helped to create. This legendary arrogance carried itself over into every aspect of the pictures he produced and directed. belief Part of this arrogance involved an conviction in his own abilities to carry a movie. He would hire writers who were able to assemble a story with a decent balance of action and romance, rather than those capable of depth or elegance. Likewise he tended to cast people according to their physicality rather than their talent. Not that he always took on bad actors, but he gave them little coaching or try to fit person to persona. Paulette Godard for example falls well below her usual standard here. She looks right because she is both attractive and upstanding, but the character is far too bland for her usual feistiness. It didn't always work out badly though. DeMille's male leads could often be dull lumps grunting their way through the adventure, but Gary Cooper was really made for these more modest roles. He underplays it beautifully, and puts plenty of character into the tiniest of gestures. Then there were professional, naturalist types like Victor Varconi, who was always able to portray a credible human being no matter how leaden the script.
And if DeMille's flair couldn't quite carry a movie, it could at least prod it along a little. Remembered largely as a showman, he was more than that a wonderful visual director, with an excellent command of crowd scenes. Take the second scene on board the ship. We dolly in through the bustle of sailors going about their business, but in the middle of the frame, mostly obscured at first, Porter Hall sits tapping his cane on a case. This draws our attention to him as a character rather than an extra, even though he begins the shot as no more than a face in the crowd. This is typical DeMille – the creation of a realistic looking environment, but with the ability to bend it towards the needs of story and scene. Later in the same scene we get some great examples of extras cutting through the line of action as Godard and Cooper talk, punctuating the scene and giving it a kind of awkward feel. Again, this is both realistic and effective.
Contemporary reviewer Bosley Crowther described Unconquered as being "as viciously anti-redskin as The Birth of a Nation was anti-Negro long years back". He's not far wrong, although Unconquered is more tacitly patronising than Birth's explicit hostility. Still, you can get an impression of the tone from the fact that British horror legend Boris Karloff was cast as the Indian chief. It's not just that Karloff looks vaguely Amerindian if you squint and add a large dollop of imagination, it's the fact that in DeMille's eyes the natives are creepy boogiemen, and he casts Karloff as their leader for the same reason as someone might cast him to play a monster or a mad doctor. The fact that even critics of the day could castigate DeMille for his racism shows just how out of touch he was becoming.
Then again, there is another strand to Unconquered that we cannot see in previous DeMille efforts – one that is almost certainly due to the impact of the recent war. The picture is incredibly frank and merciless about death and bloodshed. Cooper's buddies are picked off instantly without even a "say goodbye to my wife". One of DeMille's most elaborate and evocative shot compositions is of a mass of brutally slain soldiers. And when Cooper discovers the Salters, it is surely the most poignant moment in any DeMille picture. Perhaps the pompous old conqueror had a heart after all.
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