The Squaw Man

The Squaw Man (1914) Director: Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel

Cecil B. DeMille pictured with the cast of The Squaw Man near present-day Burbank, CA

★★★☆☆

The Squaw Man is an undeniable film. The surviving footage is in poor quality and today the film is a bit of a slog to get through, however the backstory is compelling.

The Squaw Man is the first film to be produced in Hollywood, and the first 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 first feature-length Hollywood film (or at least 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 Flagstaff, Arizona. DeMille remade the 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 before moving 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 become embroiled in disputes with an outlaw and 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.

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