Last of the Mohicans, The (1936)

Last of the Mohicans, The (1936)

“You know I don’t belong here — there’s a fence between your world and mine.”

During the French and Indian War, a frontiersman (Randolph Scott) and a Mohican Indian (Phillip Reed) help rescue the kidnapped daughters (Binnie Barnes and Heather Angel) of a British major (Hugh Buckler) from a tribe of Hurons led by the evil Magua (Bruce Cabot).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Historical Drama
  • Kidnapping
  • Love Triangle
  • Native Americans
  • Randolph Scott Films

James Fenimore Cooper’s classic “Leatherstocking” adventure tale — originally published in 1826 — has been adapted for the big screen five times, most recently (in 1992) starring Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role as Natty Bumppo, or “Hawkeye”. This early version (the third, after previous versions in 1911 and 1920) is widely considered to be the best of the bunch, but it hasn’t really aged all that well. While Randolph Scott is as virile and handsome as ever, and it’s refreshing to see Indians treated as individuals rather than a homogenous menace, the story as a whole doesn’t feel authentic: we never believe we’re back in 1800s American wilderness, and the love triangle between Hawkeye, Barnes, and Barnes’ rebuffed suitor (Henry Wilcoxen) is strained at best. As noted in The New York Times’ review, “the mere suggestion that the noted scout of the Leather-stocking Tales might soften even for a moment under the blandishments of a woman is clear heresy” — and suggests more than a little manipulation of Cooper’s vision to fit the desires of (female) audiences.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Randolph Scott as Hawkeye
  • A refreshing differentiation between tribes of Indians

Must See?
No. While it holds some historical significance and is beloved by many, this one isn’t must-see viewing.


One thought on “Last of the Mohicans, The (1936)

  1. First viewing. Agreed. Not must-see – though, on its own terms, it has its merits and is a reasonably well-told-tale. The performances aren’t bad overall (Scott is particularly impressive) & George B. Seitz’s direction is generally solid.

    Even though I haven’t read the original series by Cooper (and it’s not likely that I will; some say his writing style is challenging to read), I do sense some Hollywood-ization here (also apparently a solid attempt at honoring the original work).

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