Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

100 or 103 mins | Adventure | 10 November 1939

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HISTORY

This film marked director John Ford's first Technicolor film, and followed Twentieth Century-Fox's successful teaming of producer Darryl Zanuck, director John Ford, screenwriter Lamar Trotti and star Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.5256). According to early 1937 HR news items, Fox initially set Warner Baxter for the male lead and listed Henry King as the director. A studio press release noted that Nancy Kelly was originally set for the female lead and that Don Ameche was considered for the role that was eventually given to Fonda. The press release reported that Ameche was unable to take the assignment because he was tied up with Hollywood Cavalcade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1956). An Aug 1939 HR news item notes that novice actress Linda Darnell was pulled from the cast of the film because Zanuck had decided that she would be better suited for a role as society girl in Public Debutante No. 1 (see below), a film in which she did not finally appear. Although the film credits Ward Bond with the role of Adam Hartman, reviews erroneously list his character as "Adam Helmer."
       A Mar 1937 HR news item announced that William Faulkner was signed to write the screenplay for the film, however material contained at the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library suggests that Faulkner's sole contribution was that of an early treatment of the story. A modern source notes that the final film was almost entirely devoid of Faulkner's contributions. The ... More Less

This film marked director John Ford's first Technicolor film, and followed Twentieth Century-Fox's successful teaming of producer Darryl Zanuck, director John Ford, screenwriter Lamar Trotti and star Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.5256). According to early 1937 HR news items, Fox initially set Warner Baxter for the male lead and listed Henry King as the director. A studio press release noted that Nancy Kelly was originally set for the female lead and that Don Ameche was considered for the role that was eventually given to Fonda. The press release reported that Ameche was unable to take the assignment because he was tied up with Hollywood Cavalcade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1956). An Aug 1939 HR news item notes that novice actress Linda Darnell was pulled from the cast of the film because Zanuck had decided that she would be better suited for a role as society girl in Public Debutante No. 1 (see below), a film in which she did not finally appear. Although the film credits Ward Bond with the role of Adam Hartman, reviews erroneously list his character as "Adam Helmer."
       A Mar 1937 HR news item announced that William Faulkner was signed to write the screenplay for the film, however material contained at the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library suggests that Faulkner's sole contribution was that of an early treatment of the story. A modern source notes that the final film was almost entirely devoid of Faulkner's contributions. The UCLA files also indicate that Zanuck criticized Sonya Levien's first draft of the continuity, dated 2 Dec 1938, for having too much emphasis on the epic nature of the story rather than the more personal tale of Gilbert and Lana, which he preferred. In Apr 1939, Zanuck, after having read Lamar Trotti's draft of the screenplay, argued against the script's "flag waving patriotism" and reasserted his desire to see the clash of personalities between Lana and Gilbert more fully developed. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Zanuck purchased the rights to the film for $25,000.
       According to HR , some scenes were shot at Cedar City, Utah, where 350 local residents were used as extras. A biography of Ford notes that filming began without a completed script, and that rain and unpredictable lighting conditions in Utah's Wasatch Mountains forced many production delays. The biography also indicates that Ford, pressed for time at the Utah location, decided to forgo filming a large-scale battle scene, which had been scheduled for a three-week shoot, and instead used footage taken from an unscripted description of the battle spoken by Fonda. The sequence was taken from an improvised conversation between Ford and Fonda that had been filmed and later edited with Ford's questions removed. The result was a continuous shot of Fonda giving a descriptive narration of the battle scene. Modern sources add actors Tom Tyler ( Morgan ) and Noble Johnson ( Indian ) to the cast, and note that Mae Marsh played a pioneer woman in the film.
       Edna May Oliver was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in her role as Mrs. McKlennar. A radio dramatization of Drums Along the Mohawk , featuring Colbert and Fonda, aired on Kate Smith's radio program on 3 Nov 1939. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Nov 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
6 Nov 39
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Feb 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 39
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
6 Nov 39
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
30 Sep 39
p. 47.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Nov 39
p. 38.
New York Times
4 Nov 39
p. 11.
Variety
8 Nov 39
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck's production of
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr to trmt
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst cutter
Asst cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Asst sound
Boom man
Cableman
Cableman
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Props
Best boy
Asst prop man
Asst prop man
Still photog
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor dir
Assoc
Technicolor tech
Technicolor tech
Technicolor asst cam
Technicolor service man
Technicolor film loading
Technicolor continuity
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds (Boston and New York, 1936).
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 November 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 4 November 1939
Production Date:
28 June--late August 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
10 November 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9429
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
100 or 103
Length(in feet):
9,303
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
5530
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1776, after marrying Gilbert Martin, Lana "Magdalena" Borst leaves her luxurious home in Albany, New York to set out for her husband's farm in Deerfield, in the perilous territory of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York. Soon after arriving in Deerfield, Lana is startled by the presence of Gilbert's Indian friend, Blue Back, in their small cabin, and becomes hysterical. Gilbert strikes his new wife to bring her back to her senses, and when Lana insists on returning to Albany, he refuses to go and she decides to stay by his side. Unaccustomed to the rugged conditions, Lana has a hard time adjusting, but soon is working the fields of her farm with her husband. At German Flats, the nearest settlement to Deerfield, Gilbert and Lana meet many of the local residents and learn that the revolution that has followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence has now become a full-scale war, requiring the dispatch of additional troops to Boston. When Indians, led by Tory Caldwell, attack and burn the Martins' farm, Lana faints while fleeing and miscarries her first child. Empty-handed, the Martins turn to the widow McKlennar, who offers them a home and work on her land. Life goes on peacefully until word comes of an impending Indian attack and Gilbert and the other men form a backwoods militia to protect their land. Ill-equipped and ill-trained, the men fight off the attack with their lives and Gilbert returns home, wounded and delirious. Soon after, Lana gives birth to a son and a period of peace ensues until the Indians regroup and attack once more. Seeking ... +


In 1776, after marrying Gilbert Martin, Lana "Magdalena" Borst leaves her luxurious home in Albany, New York to set out for her husband's farm in Deerfield, in the perilous territory of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York. Soon after arriving in Deerfield, Lana is startled by the presence of Gilbert's Indian friend, Blue Back, in their small cabin, and becomes hysterical. Gilbert strikes his new wife to bring her back to her senses, and when Lana insists on returning to Albany, he refuses to go and she decides to stay by his side. Unaccustomed to the rugged conditions, Lana has a hard time adjusting, but soon is working the fields of her farm with her husband. At German Flats, the nearest settlement to Deerfield, Gilbert and Lana meet many of the local residents and learn that the revolution that has followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence has now become a full-scale war, requiring the dispatch of additional troops to Boston. When Indians, led by Tory Caldwell, attack and burn the Martins' farm, Lana faints while fleeing and miscarries her first child. Empty-handed, the Martins turn to the widow McKlennar, who offers them a home and work on her land. Life goes on peacefully until word comes of an impending Indian attack and Gilbert and the other men form a backwoods militia to protect their land. Ill-equipped and ill-trained, the men fight off the attack with their lives and Gilbert returns home, wounded and delirious. Soon after, Lana gives birth to a son and a period of peace ensues until the Indians regroup and attack once more. Seeking refuge in the fort, the men and women fight side-by-side and, in the struggle, Mrs. McKlennar is mortally wounded. When the ammunition runs dangerously low, Joe Boleo goes for reinforcements, but when he is killed, Gilbert takes his place, making a desperate dash through the enemy line and outrunning his pursuers to reach the nearest fort for help. Just as the Indians breech the wall of the fort, Gilbert and the troops arrive to defeat the attackers and restore peace to the valley. With the farm that Mrs. McKlennar gave to them before she died, Gilbert and Lana can now start their lives over. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.