Unconquered (1947)

Unconquered (1947)

“We may need more guns than words to build a future.”

A condemned British woman (Paulette Goddard) sent to America as an indentured slave is purchased by a frontiersman (Gary Cooper) determined not to let her be bought by a rival trader (Howard Da Silva). Cooper promptly frees Goddard, but she’s deceived and sold back to Da Silva, who is busy negotiating secret arms sales with Indians, including Chief Guyasuta of the Senecas (Boris Karloff). Will Goddard be able to rejoin Cooper, who is doing what he can to protect colonists against Indian uprisings?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Boris Karloff Films
  • Cecil B. DeMille Films
  • Cecil Kellaway Films
  • Gary Cooper Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Lloyd Bridges Films
  • Native Americans
  • Paulette Goddard Films
  • Slavery

Cecil B. DeMille’s fourth-to-last film — before ending his colorful career with Samson and Delilah (1949), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and The Ten Commandments (1956) — was this epic western taking place just after the French and Indian Wars and during Pontiac’s Rebellion, when a loose confederation of Indian tribes banded together against settler-colonial imposition. Naturally, the Indians here are viewed strictly as The Enemy:

… albeit with an evil White profiteer (Da Silva):

abetting their efforts. Given privileged star status are stalwart Cooper and plucky Goddard, destined to end up back together no matter how much fighting, bloodshed, and Indian torture they must endure in the meantime. Adding insult to injury is the simplified and (literally) white-washed treatment of slavery as a purely White endeavor (!) akin to indentured servitude. The redeeming elements of this flick — confidently directed, as usual, by DeMille — are the stunning Technicolor cinematography and vivid costumes and sets, which bring the era to life.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Colorful costumes and sets

  • Fine Technicolor cinematography

Must See?
No, unless you’re a DeMille completist or a fan of this type of historical drama.


One thought on “Unconquered (1947)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see and in complete agreement with the assessment.

    As noted, attractive-looking and well-produced historical fiction – which is generally played with staid earnestness but is nevertheless lacking some of the natural, spontaneous quality found, for example, in DeMille’s ‘Union Pacific’.

    Among the credited screenwriters is Charles Bennett – partnered a number of times with Hitchcock (most notably for ‘The 39 Steps’, ‘Sabotage’ and ‘Foreign Correspondent’) – which may account for some of the welcome strength in the script but the dialogue also contains more than a fair amount of standard Hollywood-speak.

    Still, leads Cooper and Goddard acquit themselves well (poor Paulette – oh, the abuse!) and Da Silva dependably displays a smooth but dastardly villain.

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