The Indian Husband (movie, 1914)

The husband of the Indian ( The Squaw Man ) is a Western US silent directed by Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille , after the play namesake of Edwin Milton Royle and starringDustin Farnum .

In a context of domination of the Motion Picture Patents Company in the east of the United States, more and more movies are shot in the west to escape its rules. The Indian Husband is the first feature film shot in Hollywood .

To produce the film, Jesse L. Lasky , Samuel Goldwyn and Cecil B. DeMille founded the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company , which later became Paramount Pictures after its merger with Famous Players to Adolph Zukor .


James Wynnegate, an officer of the British army , is accused of embezzlement while the culprit is his own brother. He escapes to the West of the United States and meets an Indian woman , Nat-U-Rich, who saves her twice her life. Wynnegate gets married to Nat-U-Rich who gives him a son. When Wynnegate’s brother dies, he confesses his fault and Wynnegate is finally cleared of all the accusations of which he was the subject in Europe. Meanwhile, Nat-U-Rich commits murder before committing suicide , leaving her husband alone with their son. After meeting her new love, Lady Diana, Wynnegate decides to return to England with her1 .

Technical sheet

Unless otherwise stated or supplemented, the technical sheet is from the book Cecil B. DeMille 2 .

  • French title: Le Mari de l’Indien
  • Original title: The Squaw Man (literally “the man of the squaw  “)
  • Director: Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille 3
  • Scenario: Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille 4 , based on Edwin Milton Royle’s play 3 , 5 adapted by Oscar Apfel 6
  • Production Company: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company
  • Production: Jesse L. Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille 4
  • Artistic direction: Wilfred Buckland
  • Photography: Alfred Gandolfi 4 , 6 and Alvin Wyckoff
  • Editing: Mamie Wagner
  • Budget: $ 15,000 7
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Format 8  : Black and white – Mute – 1.33: 1 or 1.37: 1 6 – 35 mm 6 , 9
  • Genre: Western 6 , Melodrama 10 , 11
  • Film length: 5 or 6 1 , 6 , 9 coils
  • Length: 74 minutes 8
  • Release date :
    • United States  : 15 12 , 13 or6
  • DVD editions:
    •  : Simple DVD ( zone 1 ), edited by Alpha Video 14
    •  : The Cecil B. Demille Classics Collection DVD Box 5 ( Zone 1 ), edited by Passport 14


Unless otherwise stated, this artistic list is based on the book Cecil B. DeMille 2 .

  • Dustin Farnum  : James Wynnegate aka Jim Carston
  • Monroe Salisbury  : Sir Henry, Earl of Kerhill
  • Winifred Kingston  : Lady Diana, Countess of Kerhill
  • AW Filson: Dowager Lady Elizabeth Kerhill 4 , 15
  • Haidee Fuller: Lady Mabel Wynnegate 4 , 15
  • Red Wing  : Nat-U-Ritch
  • Foster Knox: Sir John
  • Fred Montague  : Mr. Petrie
  • Carmen From Street  : Hal
  • Fernando Gálvez: Sir John Applegate
  • Harry A. Hiscox: Fletcher
  • Lew Longenecker: the captain of the boat
  • Dick La Reno  : Big Bill
  • William J. Burns: Shorty
  • Gordon Sackville  : Andy
  • Richard L’Estrange  : Grouchy
  • Charles Figee: Bull Cowen
  • Joseph Singleton  : Tabywana
  • William Elmer  : Cash Hawkins
  • Art Acord  : a city dweller 4
  • Earl Simpson: McSorley
  • OA Moor: Smith
  • Edgar Lewis  : Nick
  • Milton Brown: Budd Hardy
  • Gordona Bennet: the wife of the boat captain
  • Utahna La Reno: the child of the boat’s captain
  • Maureen Rasmussen: Mrs. Chichester Jones
  • Cecilia de Mille: a child 4 (uncredited)
  • Cecil B. DeMille  : the beer seller 4 (uncredited)
  • Raymond Hatton  : a cowherd 4 (uncredited)
  • Hal Roach  : a city dweller 4 (uncredited)


Background of cinema expansion

At the beginning of xx th  century , film is primarily an entertainment whose targets are the people of the middle class 16 . In the US, the films are shown in nickelodeons that are scattered everywhere in the streets of big cities 17 . They are arbitrarily limited to one or two coils by the Motion Picture Patents Company , a trust run by Thomas Edison and controlling the nascent film industry 18. In order to escape the jurisdiction of the Motion Picture Patents Company, which is rampant in the east of the country, teams are gradually beginning to make films in the West of the country (but not yet in Hollywood ).

In 1912 , Adolph Zukor opened a gap by producing a French feature film that went beyond the boundaries of the Motion Picture Patents Company with four reels 19  : Queen Elizabeth of Louis Mercanton , starring Sarah Bernhardt 19 , 20 , 21 , a true star of beginning of the century. This film meets a great success and marks a turning point for the actors of the time. Indeed, before Queen Elizabeth , it was considered unworthy for them to play in a film, the cinema being considered as the distraction of the uneducated 16 , unlike thetheater , and therefore doomed to disappear 22 . The presence of Sarah Bernhardt in a film changes the mindset of actors who now believe that such a choice is ultimately not dishonorable 16 . This achievement gives a new perspective to Jesse L. Lasky, producer and impresario at the edge of bankruptcy, with the possibility of making films as long as the theater 23 .

Birth of the project

In 1913 , shortly after being convinced by Samuel Goldwyn to try their luck in the cinema, 24 , 25 , Jesse L. Lasky and his associate, Cecil B. DeMille , propose to Dustin Farnum , a renowned theater actor , 26 to be the headliner of a film that would last more than one hour 23 . The film in question would be an adaptation of a 1905 1 ” Westernist  ” inspired  play , The Squaw Man 5 , 11 , 27 , written by Edwin Milton RoyleLasky which obtained the film rights for movies for only 15 000 3 , 25 . Cecil B. DeMille thus resumes one of the successes of his theatrical career 28 , as Dustin Farnum, who already held the title role in Exhibit 10 and who accepts the proposal of Lasky and DeMille but refuses to take 25% of the shares of the newly created company, the Jesse Lasky L. Feature Play Company , preferring the fixed sum of $ 5,000 3 , 26 . The future of the company will demonstrate that it would have made a lot more money with the first contract proposed by Lasky and DeMille.

On the way to Hollywood

The filming is initially planned in New Jersey but the place seems inappropriate for a film of cowboys and Indians 3 , and the stranglehold of the Thomas Edisonled trust on the film industry on the coast East of the United States is pushing the new studio to shoot his film elsewhere 29 . Finally, while Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn remain in New York , Cecil B. DeMille leaves with his team for Flagstaff , Arizona . On the train that takes them to the west, DeMille and Oscar Apfel , a director ofNew York 30, having previously worked for the Edison Manufacturing Company , the Mutual Film and Pathé Frères 11 , write a script twenty pages as a basis for their future movie 31 . Arrived at destination, they are caught in a snowstorm , which pushes them to continue to Hollywood 3 , 26 , a town already hosting the director DW Griffith 32 , author of the first film shot on the spot, the short film In Old California 33 . This is how theDeMille rents a barn (now known as Lasky-DeMille Barn ) at the corner of Selma and Vine Streets, converted into a studio by Burns and Revier Studio and Laboratory for $ 250 per month 34 , 35 ( $ 75 ) according to another source 3 ).


The filming of what will be the first feature film shot in Hollywood 3 , 34 , 35 , the future mythical place of American cinema, begins under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille onwith an allocated budget of $ 15,000 7 . Before that date, DeMille spent ten years in the theater as an actor and playwright, 36 but his only film experience was a one-day training at Edison’s studio where he had watched a director and his operator turning a scene 37 . Because of this inexperience in cinema, he collaborates with Oscar Apfel 1 , 3 , 38 , a director who has made films since 1911 39. The two directors then share the tasks, DeMille leading the actors and Apfel taking care of the technical aspect of the realization 40 .

In addition to Dustin Farnum, the star of the film, British actress Winifred Kingston has been hired from New York to play Lady Diana. The two actors will marry a few years later 1 , 41 . The role of Nat-U-Ritch is attributed to a true Native American, Red Wing 1 , actress from the Winnebagos tribe , accustomed to this kind of role since 1909 and whose Indian Mari will be one of the last films from his short career 42 . Among the selected actors is also Hal Roach , a future major producer , paid$ 5 a day to play in the movie 29 . To save the daily wage of 3 $ for a set, Cecil B. DeMille himself plays the beer vendor 24 .

After the first shots crank, Cecil B. DeMille is aware of the fragility of the negative films and decided that each scene will be drawn in duplicate 43 . This precaution is paying off the day a film is found torn and trampled 43 . As a result of this story, DeMille receives from time to time death threats from the Edison trust 43 and is even shot twice on his way home from Barn 44 .

During the filming, Lasky arrives from New York to observe the work being done. The records he made Goldwyn are so enthusiastic that he made sure to get an advance of 60 000 $ on future broadcasting rights 45 ( 40 000 $ according to another source 5 ). Indeed, Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel wear techniques yet little exploited in this period as the camera moves or intertitlesto accompany the viewer in his understanding of history 11 . Thanks to the work of Wilfred Buckland , the former artistic director of David BelascoCecil B. DeMille has the opportunity to explore a more artistic path than usual. With his director of photography , he plays with shades of light to give a more dramatic tone that usually films shot 45 . This play of low light (the ”  low-key  “) is particularly used in the scene that shows us the “taboo” relationship between James Wynnegate and Nat-U-Ritch, the White and the Indian. This sequence also announces the method to be employed by DeMille to express the dilemmas moral in his future movies 11. When Samuel Goldwyn sees the result of this work of light in the following films, he will complain to DeMille that he will never be able to sell such dark films. Cecil B. DeMille retorted, “Tell them it’s Rembrandt lighting  ” 45 , 46 . Goldwyn will eventually sell the more expensive rights for “extra artistic” 45 , 46 . This is how Buckland and his team will introduce artificial lighting in an industry that is then dependent on sunlight 45 .

The Indian Husband is finally realized in 18 days 3 .

Home and posterity

In the film, a first-forward is held in Los Angeles 44 . This evening, which promised to triumph for the small society, ended in disillusionment. During the first seconds of projection, we notice that the image is jumping, making the film unusable 44 . Although he is a member of the trust , Siegmund Lubin , a businessman from Philadelphia , offers his help to Cecil B. DeMille. Its technicians discovered that the concern is related to the perforation of the film 44 . The problem solved, The Indian husband finally came out in February 1914 . Despite its length of six reels1 , the film is a success and brings ten times its production cost 3 : it would have earned between 200,000 24 and 244 700 6 with the price of a room for ten cents 24 . The work of Oscar Apfel is immediately recognized as suggested criticism in Moving Picture World  (in)  “I did not see the name of Oscar Apfel […] but I recognize his work without difficulty” 40 . The New York Dramatic Mirror“It is presumed that the first person in charge of this cleverly directed fiction is Cecil B. DeMille, but that must not detract from the honor due to Oscar Apfel, who is responsible for most of the work” 40 .

This success allows the company to launch new products after buying 47 and expansion of the barn, which makes possible the simultaneous production of several films 45 . Following the success of the husband of the Indian , Jesse L. Lasky received many messages of congratulations including one coming from Adolph Zukor 3 , 48 . Lasky then invites Zukor to lunch, a meeting that marks the beginning of a long friendship 25 , 48 on which will eventually lead to the creation of Paramount Pictures .

The film historian Sumiko Higashi highlights the beginning of a new method of filmmaking with The Indian Husband  : “Apfel’s cinematographic style is, from a technical point of view, highly evolved and distinguished by a depth composed of a large number of mid- planes (framing between the close-up and wide shot), camera movements to allow cropping, parallel editing , layering and the use of ‘ split screen ( split screen ) and the headingsto situate the action and for the dialogues. All the characteristics that future DeMille films will have ” 11 . However, in retrospect, the film does not remain in the annals because of its intrinsic qualities 10 , being rather boring even for a person of xxi th  century 24 , but primarily because it is the source of creation of Paramount, filming in Hollywood and Cecil B. DeMille’s film career. The film is sometimes mentioned among the pioneer films of the beginning of the western 49 , 50 , or even wrongly considered as the first feature film of the genre 51while some other Western feature films were released in 1913, the first being Arizona (6 reels) 50 , 52 .

Place film in the career of Cecil B. DeMille

In DeMille’s career, The Indian Husband has an importance that goes beyond the fact that this is her first achievement. This story was one of his favorite subjects since he made two other adaptations. He first signed a first silent remake in 1918 , released in France under the title A Heart in Exile 53 , with Elliott Dexter taking the lead role. In 1931 , he took up the story in a talking version , also known as The White Man 49 , a film he directed for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer , withWarner Baxter as the lead role. The first version 1914 also marks the beginning of an important collaboration between DeMille and future Paramount, for whom he produced most of his films 36 . His third version of the film in 1931 will be his latest achievement for the MGM 49 , after the sole and short period of infidelity of DeMille with Paramount.

The Indian Husband also inaugurates one of the many aspects of DeMille’s filmography, since DeMille will make other Westerns until the 1940s, 28 the most important of which are A Buffalo Bill Adventure ( 1936 ) and Pacific Express ( 1938 ) 36 , thus contributing to the history of the genre. The genre of the western is the one he favors at the beginning of his career since he shot a dozen in barely more than a year after the Indian Husband 28 , part of which is again co-directed with Oscar Apfel.

This adaptation of a play also marks a transition between the theatrical and cinematographic careers of Cecil B. DeMille, who then takes the motto: “Produce spectacular pieces with first-rate actors” 54. The director’s reputation will also benefit from the legend that The Indian Husband was the first film shot in Hollywood, rumor that he will never deny 36 , deliberately forgetting Griffith’s short film .

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