DATELINE: Shut In Special
Hawkeye & Faithful Companions!
Sometimes you need to go back to an early version of a classic to see it done properly with all due reverence. So it is with the James Fennimore Cooper story of survival in wilderness.
Randolph Scott is the stalwart Hawkeye, and he is the epitome of an American frontiersman who has taken up with a few natives outside the parameters of primitive New York society. Tune in to Prime to watch Last of the Mohicans.
If you are an English major purist, the movie plays weird games with the novel: reversing the names of the Munro sisters: one blonde and angelic, the other darker and more passionate. In an effort to make the interracial angle heightened (savages attracted to the epitome of pale white women), Alice is now Cora. The blonde is now Cora, not Alice, and clearly the two competing native Americans are interested.
The bad Indian is Magua, a Huron pretending to be a Mohawk of peaceful nature. He is a warlike spy in the midst of the stupid British. It is interesting that the British military heroes are not exactly favored by Hawkeye, the early Americans, or the hostile natives. Of course, that was Cooper’s view too.
Magua is played by a white man from King Kong. Yes, Bruce Cabot strips down and shaves his head in a performance to play a blue-eyed Magua. He is sinister, and he is a great foil to Randolph Scott.
A couple of unknown actors play the noble friends of Hawkwye, the young and handsome Uncas, a man of honor and his father Chingachgook who will end up with the title role.
It’s hard to realize the film is almost 90 years old now and has with it a sense of black and white historical flavor. It is entertaining in its chase scenes and amusing in its racial miscastings. That aside, you still have a well-intended classic of a high order.
When you are shut in and in social distance mode, these old chestnuts are worth savoring.