The Vanishing American

It's pretty impressive when a silent, black and white movie made back in 1926 can still be interesting to watch in modern times. If you're open to movies with subtitles, I definitely recommend giving this a try.

Zane Grey wrote the initial story, and the movie begins far back "in the beginning". Not all of the story is very flattering. These cliff dwellers of pre-history were apparently quite lazy. "Mog could sleep on any excuse or none". Rival Indians come flooding in, much like the storming of the walls in The Two Towers. The local medicine man curses the invaders, saying that they will eventually be driven just as they are driving the innocents here.

Hop forward to 1540, when the Spanish appear on the scene with horses. Interestingly, as much as many people feel the Indians always had horses, they were only brought to the New World with the invaders. The Indians, awed by their gunpowder and riding ability, treat them as Gods.

Another fast forward, this time to 1864. Kit Carson, a friend of the Indians, is forced to subdue them to win a peace. He promises that they'll have a peaceful, content life, farming in lush meadows. Unfortunately he dies soon afterwards, and the red man is tossed onto barren reservations. The Indian Agent who should be representing them is incompetent, and his helper is downright nasty. They deliberately steal the horses of the village, even while the kids are being educated in white men's ways and playing baseball. I have to comment as a parent that it was intriguing to see the kids playing on a super-high playgym where the "slide" was just a pair of rods you slid down, hooking your legs over each. The definition of "safe" was much different back then! It's also intriguing that all of the children do a flag salute identical to the Hitler salute, which is a bit spooky.

There's prejudice aplenty here, with the villagers looking down on the school marm for fraternizing with the enemy. It causes trouble for him - but in short order The Great War begins. Her guy friend decides to do the right thing and defend his country, even though his country has never done much for him. He goes over and fights valiantly. Unfortunately, when he returns, he finds if anything that things have gotten even worse for his people.

Some parts of this are rather disturbing in a "looking down on the natives" way. The whole introductory sequence, for example. On the other hand, this is 1926. There were still incredibly nasty laws against blacks in the south, and we hadn't even begun the heavy western era of "cowboys vs indians" movies. It's impressive that this was as pro-indian as it was, being made back in those days.

Well recommended to see where things all began.

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