WITH DANIEL BOONE THRU THE WILDERNESS (1926)

Comparison Films
 

Daniel Boone (1936)

    This black and white production called simply Daniel Boone is another typical good-guy-fights-bad-guy-and-good-guy-wins movie.  This time the bad-guy was Simon Gerty, “renegade” white, and the good-guy was, of course, Daniel Boone.  As the settlement Boonesborough was being built, Boone fought constant Indian attacks led by Gerty and also fought a big legal conspiracy back in Richmond, Virginia.  Boone captured Gerty twice.  After the initial apprehension, Boone wanted to see Gerty hung but had to let him go on a legal technicality.  The second time, however, he personally killed the evil scalper in a brutal fight.  This is in direct contrast to With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness.  In the silent film made exactly one decade earlier, Boone released Gerty the first time simply because Gerty was white.  The second time, Boone refused to kill Gerty himself, turning the villain over to the Indians to punish instead.

    Several other aspects of the 1936 version are worth mentioning.  One of the white settlers owns a black slave.  This slave appears a perfectly happy and contented servant.  At one point, the slave even compares himself to an Indian, Boone’s perfectly happy and subservient sidekick, Black Eagle.  It is difficult to imagine that these two men, who were considered second-rate citizens if citizens at all, would be that content.

    Another “contention” with this film is that Heather Angel plays the part of Boone’s beautiful girlfriend.  Angel’s name was Virginia and not Rebecca, the woman Boone was actually married to at the time.  Why the screenplay was written this way is anyone’s guess.

    The Indian portrayals were maddening, of course.   The most interesting aspect of this movie, perhaps, was the disparagement with bureaucracy this movie represents.  A mass-murderer, Gerty, was freed due to a legal technicality, and evil legislators conspired to and succeeded at “stealing” the land from the hard-working innocent settlers with Joseph Heller-style red-tape (never mind the fact that the settlers had so recently stolen the land from the Indians).   Perhaps producer George A. Hirliman was fixated on this point because of year the film was produced.  1936 was smack-dab in the middle of the depression.  Many people were fed up with the government and anything else that contributed to the overall poverty level in the United States.

    Nonetheless, Boone’s legal battle in the film actually occurred, and the settlers did eventually lose the Boonesborough settlement, land claimed by squatter’s rights.

75 minutes
Starring Heather Angel and George O’Brien
Produced by George A. Hirliman at Motion Picture Ventures, Inc.
Original Story by Edgecumb Pinchon
Directed by David Howard
Video available through Alpha Video Distributors, Inc.


Daniel Boone- Trail Blazer (1956)

    Daniel Boone- Trail Blazer is a somewhat peculiar film representation of Daniel Boone and the settlers at Boonsborough.  Peculiar in that twice during the movie characters randomly break out in song.  Peculiar in that the mayor of Boonsborough, Calloway, is always angry and disagreeing vehemently with everyone.  Peculiar in that two of Boone's daughters fall in love with the same man, and this fact has little to do with anything else in the movie.

    Perhaps more noteworthy than the few unique oddities in the film, however, is the way Daniel Boone is represented, as well as the representation of the dynamics between the whites and the Indians.  Similar to With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness released 30 years earlier, this Daniel Boone is proven to be cunning, morally upstanding, a valiant fighter, and physically superior to all men.  Another notable comparison between the two movies is Boone's strong desire to promote a peaceful atmosphere between the "innocent, intelligent, and gentle-unless-forced-to-fight" whites and the "easily misled, highly reckless, and often berserk" Indians, thus providing an open doorway through Boonsborough to the promised-land, the wonderful West.  Whether or not Boone actually embodied these characteristics is up for conjecture, as is the morality of his supposed ideologies.  One thing is certain, however, and that is that the glorified legend of Daniel Boone and the belief in the so-called benefits of Manifest Destiny were alive and well in 1956.

Starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bruce Bennett


Daniel Boone (1960)
A Walt Disney Four Volume Mini-Series
Volume One: The Warrior's Path
Volume Two: And Chase the Buffalo
Volume Three: The Wilderness Road
Volume Four: The Promised Land

    Daniel Boone is escorting his family and several others from the Yadkin Valley to Cain-tuck (Kentucky).  Trouble arises when Boone beats Crowfeather, a local Indian, in a fair contest, causing Crowfeather to lose face with his people.  Crowfeather vows to kill Boone and subsequently attacks Boone and crew repeatedly throughout their voyage.  Arrows and hatchets fly at the settlers from crazed Indians every few minutes throughout the films.

    As expected from a 1960 rendition of the Boone story, Boone is the charismatic hero, leader, and family man.  The Indians, played mostly by white actors who talk slowly with feathers in their hair, are never to be trusted due to their constant “unwarranted” attacks.  The most interesting, and least politically correct, scenes in this series occur at the very beginning of each volume when Walt Disney himself gives an oral prologue explaining the plight of pioneers and explorers like Daniel Boone.

    In this viewer’s opinion, Disney makes several ignorant remarks regarding the Indians.  The worst of all was a statement referring to the belief that all the whites wanted to do was travel westward toward the bountiful land of Kentucky, wanting no problems with the Indians.  It was the Indians, Disney said, that were being selfish.  Kentucky was their hunting ground, and they did not believe that there was room for whites to settle there.  The camera immediately switches to images of lush forests, extremely large herds of deer, and thousands of various species of birds filling the sky.  The implication was this: of course there was enough for everybody, how could there not be in such a rich and plentiful land?

    Then, throughout the movies, almost all conversations between Boone and the Indians dealt with the fact that the Indians were peacefully and otherwise trying to stop Boone and other whites from settling in Kentucky.  The dialog of the Indians was intended to make them out to be ridiculous, ignorant, and completely selfish jerks.  That may have worked on a fifties audience, but every “ridiculous” claim they argued for makes perfect sense to the informed 21st century viewer.  The ways in which Walt Disney manipulated history to justify the actions of white American males is nothing short of disgusting.  It’s no wonder that his insidious white ethnocentrism and historical ignorance are still around forty years later.

Starring Dewey Martin
Directed by Lewis R Foster
Produced by Bill Anderson
 

Other Related films:

The Alamo (1960)
Starring: John Wayne, Richard Widmark
Director: John Wayne

Daniel Boone: Ken-Tuck-E (1964)

Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956)
Starring: Fess Parker, Buddy Ebsen
Director: Norman Foster

Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955)
Starring: Fess Parker, Buddy Ebsen
Director: Norman Foster

The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
Video.  Prod. Jamie White, Dir. Clarence Brown.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe
Director: Michael Mann
 
 

Copyright © 2000 by Matt Sparks, Undergraduate at Lehigh University

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of the U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the author is notified and no fee is charged for access.  Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other  terms, in any medium, requires consent of the author.