Tonight's MovieMovie is one of the great unsung Westerns of the '70s and the second of seven collaborations between actor Robert Redford and Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack.
Redford stars as the title character, a veteran of the Mexican War (1846–48) who moves out west to become a mountain man. Johnson's life is a difficult one, filled with harsh winters, hungry grizzly bears and ferocious Blackfoot warriors who don't appreciate white men encroaching on their territory, but he manages to find peace, harmony and love with the daughter (Delle Bolton) of a Flathead chief. Unfortunately, Johnson's piece is short-lived. When the U.S. Cavalry force him to help them move through native territory, everything and everyone in his life is put in jeopardy and the peaceful man he once
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Written by Edward Anhalt and John Milius
The Western, at its creative and commercial peak – the late 1960s-early 1970s – proved itself an astoundingly pliable genre. It could be molded to deal with topical subject matter like racism (Skin Game, 1971), feminism (The Ballad of Josie, 1967), the excesses of capitalism (Oklahoma Crude, 1973). It could be bent into religious allegories (High Plains Drifter, 1973), or an equally allegorical address of the country’s most controversial war (Ulzana’s Raid, 1972). Westerns could be used to deconstruct America’s most self-congratulatory myths (Doc, 1971), and address historical slights and omissions (Little Big Man, 1970). They could provide heady social commentary (Hombre, 1967), or simple adventure and excitement (The Professionals, 1966). They could be funny (The Hallelujah Trail, 1965), unremittingly grim (Hour of the Gun, 1967), surreal (Greaser’s Palace, 1972), even be stretched into the shape of rock musical (Zachariah, 1971) or monster movie (Valley of Gwangi, 1969).
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