Red Clay (1927)

Genres - Western  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Directed by one of "Uncle" Carl Laemmle's many relatives, this Universal "Blue Streak Western" sat on the shelf for two years before being released to a mostly indifferent reception in 1927. The reason for the film's delay could have been aged leading man William Desmond's waning popularity, or its subject matter -- the bad treatment of Native American recruits in the past war -- might have worried a rather matter-of-fact studio such as Universal, despite the success of Paramount's The Vanishing American (1925). Desmond played Chief John Nisheto who, during the campaign in France, saves the life of Jack Burr (Albert J. Smith), the son of a United States senator (Byron Douglas) favorable to Native Americans. After the Armistice, Chief Nisheto starts dating Jack's sister Agnes (Marceline Day), to the dismay of the racist Jack, who doesn't realize that the chief is the man who once saved his life. Nisheto is later mortally wounded and Jack repents his prejudice on his rescuer's deathbed. Despite the film's honorable intentions, Red Clay suffered under Hollywood's stringent miscegenation policy. Desmond (a white actor, of course) had to die for Red Clay to reach an acceptable conclusion. This and several other melodramatic treatments of Native Americans were inspired by pro-Indian legislation enacted by real-life senator John Collier. The subject matter, however, was much better served in the early silent era, where Native Americans were more a subject of benign curiosity than the condescending praise typified by films such as Red Clay and The Vanishing American.



bigotry, cross-cultural-relations, Native-American, rescue, romance, sister, son