Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s splendid physique was seen in all its pristine glory in the 1916 western The Half-Breed. In what might have been a movie first, the title character is sympathetically portrayed, despite the "onus" of having Indian blood. Living as an outcast, young Lo Dorman (Fairbanks) is welcomed back into society by pretty preacher's daughter Nellie (Jewel Carmen), who cares not a whit about his mixed parentage. But Dorman's presence in town proves uncomfortable for Sheriff Dunne (Sam DeGrasse) -- who, unbeknownst to anyone himself, is Lo's father. The sheriff does his worst to discredit Lo in the eyes of the townsfolk, whereupon our hero joins a travelling medicine show, finding true happiness with another "outcast," dance-hall girl Teresa (Alma Rubens). In an interview with Kevin Brownlow, director Allan Dwan revealed that The Half-Breed almost didn't get made, thanks to the interference of Fairbank's then wife, who didn't want her husband to appear as an "unwashed" half-breed. To circumvent this, Dwan inserted a scene showing a nearly nude Fairbanks taking a "bath" in a river, then thoroughly scrubbing himself and his clothes with sand. "He was a washed Indian, not a dirty Indian," Dwan explained. "I only put the scene in to satisfy Mrs. Fairbanks." Unfortunately, only the first two reels of The Half-Breed are known to exist.