The Squaw Man (1914) Director: Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel
Many of these early films are significant simply for being the “first” in a long line of better films. For me, The Squaw Man is just such a film. Sadly, the footage that survives today is mostly of poor quality and the film is a bit of a slog to get through, however the backdrop to its completion is compelling.
The Squaw Man is considered the first feature film to be produced in Hollywood, and the first major motion picture created by the ‘Lasky Play Company’ (which later became Paramount Pictures). Prior to The Squaw Man, short films had been produced in Hollywood, such as D.W. Griffith’s In Old California, however The Squaw Man was the true first feature-length film (where at least significant portions of it were shot in Hollywood). To shoot The Squaw Man, DeMille leased what is now known as the ‘DeMille-Lasky Barn’ for $250 per month (today the Hollywood Heritage Museum sits on the location). Other shooting locations included vistas throughout California, as well as in Flagstaff, AZ. DeMille later remade this film in 1918 but that footage is now lost, and he remade it again in 1931. DeMille’s co-director, Oscar Apfel, was an early employee of Edison who later made the move out to Hollywood. He directed numerous films, many of which are now lost, but The Squaw Man is his most fondly remembered production.
The plot of The Squaw Man is about English cousins James “Jim” Wynnegate (played by Dustin Farnum) and Sir Henry (played Monroe Salisbury) who embezzle money from a charitable fund for orphaned children. Jim escapes to Wyoming and becomes embroiled in disputes with an outlaw and the Utes Indians. He falls in love with a tribal daughter. Years later, his cousin Henry falls off a cliff to his death. Shortly before the end, Henry makes amends for his cousin, James, and his wife goes to find Jim in America. It is a fun and fanciful trip through the old west.