With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness is an obscure film. Very obscure. In fact, so little is known about this silent "moving picture" that the only index to so much as acknowledge that this movie even exists, The American Film Institute Catalog, questions who the actual director was. Both Robert North Bradbury and Frank Mattison are "each given credit for this film by different sources." The listing goes on to state that "no information about the precise nature of this film has been found." Very obscure.
The events within the film are loosely based on historical fact. The love story between Daniel Boone and Rebe Bryan is based on the fact that Boone did indeed marry a woman named Rebecca Bryant. Little is known about "Rebe," so undoubtedly Bradbury or Mattison (or whoever actually wrote the screenplay for this film) was taking some creative liberties with her character. That Boone lived in the Yadkin River Valley and then was one of the first settlers of Kentucky is also true. Simon Gerty was loosely based on a real person, however, the other characters and events within With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness are largely fictional.
The representation of Daniel Boone in this film, as well as the representations of the other settlers and of the Indians, no doubt arises from a tradition of hagiographies that promulgated, even created, the Daniel Boone legend. (click here for a list of those hagiographies) Many of these early hagiographies, published within Boone's own lifetime, claimed to be autobiographies from the great Boone himself. It is highly unlikely that Boone had much to do with the writing of any of them, for he was not only barely literate, he supposedly was known to be disgusted by the lies and skewed perspectives they presented. The earliest of these so-called biographies was an extended appendix to a piece called The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke written by John Filson and published in 1784. With this narrative, Boone was lifted from the rank of average frontiersman into American hero. The actual life and personality of Daniel Boone was left behind, and a legend bordering on the realm of tall-tales was born.
This partially-fabricated, forever-glorified legend is no doubt the source for the story and representations within the film With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness.
Copyright © 2000 by Matt Sparks, Undergraduate at Lehigh University
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