The Squaw Man (1914 film)

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The Squaw Man
A scene from The Squaw Man
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Oscar C. Apfel
Screenplay byCecil B. DeMille
Oscar C. Apfel
Based on The Squaw Man
by Edwin Milton Royle
Produced byCecil B. DeMille
Oscar C. Apfel
Jesse L. Lasky
Starring Dustin Farnum
CinematographyAlfred Gandolfi
Edited byMamie Wagner
Distributed byState Rights [1]
Release date
  • February 12, 1914 (1914-02-12)(United States)
Running time
74 minutes
CountryUnited States
Languages Silent
English intertitles
Budget$40,000 [2]
Box office$533,446

The Squaw Man (known as The White Man in the United Kingdom) is a 1914 American silent Western film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar C. Apfel, and starring Dustin Farnum. It was DeMille's directorial debut and one of the first feature films to be shot in what is now Hollywood.



The Squaw Man (1914) full film

James Wynnegate (Dustin Farnum) and his cousin, Henry (Monroe Salisbury), are upper class Englishmen and trustees for an orphans’ fund. Henry loses money in a bet at a derby and embezzles money from “the fund” to pay off his debts. When war office officials are informed of the money missing they pursue James, but he successfully escapes to Wyoming. There, James rescues Nat-U-Ritch (Lillian St. Cyr), daughter to the chief of the Utes tribe, from local outlaw Cash Hawkins (William Elmer). Hawkins plans to exact his revenge on James, but has his plans thwarted by Nat-U-Ritch, who shoots him dead. Later, James has an accident in the mountains and needs to be rescued. Nat-U-Ritch discovers him and carries him back to safety. As she nurses him back to health, they fall in love and later have a child.

Meanwhile, during an exploration of the Alps, Henry falls off a cliff. Before he succumbs to his injuries, Henry signs a letter of confession proclaiming James’s innocence in the embezzlement. Before Henry's widow, Lady Diana (Winifred Kingston) and others arrive in Wyoming to tell James about the news, the Sheriff recovers the murder weapon that was used against Cash Hawkins in James and Nat-U-Ritch's home. Realizing that their son is not safe, the couple sends him away, leaving them both distraught. Facing the possibilities of losing both her son and her freedom, Nat-U-Ritch decides to take her own life instead. The movie ends with both the chief of the Utes tribe and James embracing her body. [3]


Production background

The Squaw Man. 1905 Broadway play. Squaw Man 1914.jpg
The Squaw Man. 1905 Broadway play.

The only onscreen filmmaking credit is "Picturized by Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar C. Apfel." The film was adapted by DeMille and Apfel from the 1905 stage play of the same name by Edwin Milton Royle, and produced by DeMille, Apfel, and Jesse L. Lasky for the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, its first film. [1]

This first screen version of the story was the legendary DeMille's first movie assignment. It was also the first feature-length film shot in California, partly in what became Hollywood. Film historians agree that shorts had previously been filmed in Hollywood, with D. W. Griffith's In Old California (1910) considered the earliest. DeMille rented what is now known as the Lasky-DeMille Barn at the southeast corner of Selma and Vine Streets to serve as their studio and production office; today it is home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum. [4] Shooting on The Squaw Man began December 29, 1913, [1] and finished January 20, 1914.

DeMille wanted to emphasize the outdoors and wanted to shoot the movie in exotic scenery and great vistas. Initially he traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona to film the movie. After seeing the vast amount of mountains near Flagstaff, the production was moved to Los Angeles. Harbor scenes were shot in San Pedro, California and the western saloon set was built beside railroad tracks in the San Fernando Valley. Footage of cattle on the open range was shot at Keen Camp near Idyllwild, California, while snow scenes were shot at Mount Palomar. [5] Cecil B. DeMille felt that lighting in a movie was extremely important and viewed it as the visual and emotional foundation to build his image. He believed that lighting was to a film as “music is to an opera”. [3]

The Squaw Man went on to become the only movie successfully filmed three times by the same director/producer, DeMille. He filmed a silent remake in 1918, and a talkie version in 1931. The Squaw Man was 74 minutes long and generated $244,700 in profit. [3] [5]


The main character James Wynnegate played by Dustin Farnum, was cast as the hero for the film. Farnum was a notable Broadway star and his wife in real life Winifred Kingston was also a well-known actress. She played the English love interest. [3] Red Wing (real name Lillian St. Cyr) was born into the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska on the Winnebago Reservation, and she played the American Indian wife. [6]


Non-Native American actor Joseph Singleton played the role of Tabywana, Nat-U-Ritch's father. Lillian St. Cyr of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska was cast to play the role of Nat-U-Ritch, a member of the Ute tribe. She is also known as "Princess Redwing". St. Cyr along with her husband James Young Deer (of the Nanticoke people of Delaware) [7] have been regarded as one of the first "Native American power couple" in Hollywood, along with Mona Darkfeather and her husband, director Frank E. Montgomery. [8] DeMille had selected Lillian St. Cyr, but his first choice had been Darkfeather, who was not available. [5]

During the early silent film era, films based on Native Americans were popular. The central theme of this film was miscegenation. In the state of California, anti-miscegenation laws existed until 1948; however, while African-Americans couldn't legally marry whites in California during filming, marriages between Native Americans and whites were permitted. Though there were Native American actors, whites were mostly cast as Native characters. [9]

During the early teens, Young Deer and Lillian St. Cyr helped to transform how Native American characters were represented. The characters they created were sympathetic in complex ways, although other studios such as Kalem Company were also attempting to accurately portray Natives in film. [9] However, other scholars argue that Native American-themed silent films did not alter in any way the dominant perception of Natives themselves. Many films displayed the Native American experience from many different perspectives and did involve Native American writers, filmmakers, and actors during this time period.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 "AFI|Catalog".
  2. "Obituaries: Jesse L. Lasky". Variety . January 15, 1958. p. 70. Retrieved October 19, 2021 via
  3. 1 2 3 4 Fritzi Kramer, The Squaw Man(1914) A Silent Film Review, February 16, 2014.
  4. "Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn) Time Line". Hollywood Heritage Museum website.
  5. 1 2 3 Birchard, Robert S. (2004). Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 8–9. ISBN   0-8131-2324-0.
  6. Aleiss, Angela (February 24, 2014). "100 Years Ago: Lillian St. Cyr, First Native Star in Hollywood Feature". Indian Country Today Media Network . Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  7. Aleiss, Angela (May 2013). "Who Was the Real James Young Deer?". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  8. Howe, edited by LeAnne; Markowitz, Harvey; Cummings, Denise K. (2013). "1". Seeing Red: Hollywood's Pixeled Skins: American Indians and Film. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. ISBN   978-1611860818.{{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  9. 1 2 Aleiss, Angela (2005). "2" . Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. ISBN   0313361339.