Back to God's Country (1919 film)
Back to God's Country is a 1919 Canadian drama film directed by David Hartford. It is one of the earliest Canadian feature films. The film starred and was co-written by Canadian actress Nell Shipman. With an estimated budget of over $67,000, it was the most successful silent film in Canadian history.
|Back to God's Country|
|Directed by||David Hartford|
|Produced by||James Oliver Curwood|
Ernest Shipman (uncredited)
|Written by||Nell Shipman|
Wellington A. Playter
|Edited by||Cyril Gardner|
Canadian Photoplays Ltd.
|Distributed by||First National Exhibitor's Circuit (later to become First National Pictures)|
|October 27, 1919|
|Language||Silent (English intertitles)|
The film is noteworthy as it starred Shipman and was produced by her husband, Ernest. Shipman was one of the first women to do a nude scene on screen in the movie. In 1918, they created a production company, Shipman-Curwood Producing Company, to produce Back to God's Country. The film was the only film the company would produce, and was based on a short story, "Whapi, the Walrus" by James Oliver Curwood.
Curwood's story was adapted to the screen by Nell herself. She changed the protagonist of the film from a great dane to the female lead, Dolores. Shipman also shaped her character into a heroine, who saves her husband. Curwood was infuriated with Shipman, but commercially the film was extremely successful, posting a 300 percent profit and grossing a million-and-a-half dollars.
The film tells the story of Dolores LeBeau (Shipman) who lives in the Canadian woods with her father and who has a rapport with the wild animals of the forest. She falls in love with Peter (Wheeler Oakman), a Canadian government official and writer, and marries him after escaping from Rydal (Wellington Playter), the villain who, disguised as a Mountie, tries to rape her and then kills her father. Later Dolores and Peter travel to the Arctic on a whaling schooner whose captain turns out to be Rydal, still intent on "possessing" her. She manages to foil him until the ship becomes frozen in, then escapes on a dog-sled with her husband. Rydal and his partner pursue her but the dog Wapi, ill-treated by Rydal's partner and befriended by Dolores, assists her by attacking and crippling the dogs of Rydal's sled. Rydal dies in an ice-hole while Dolores and Peter return to "God's Country" and her animal friends.
- Nell Shipman ... Dolores LeBeau
- Charles Arling ... 'Sealskin' Blake
- Wheeler Oakman ... Peter Burke
- Wellington A. Playter ... Captain Rydal (as Wellington Plater)
- Ronald Byram ... Peter Burke (original casting) (uncredited)
- William Colvin ... Mountie Shot by Rydal (uncredited)
- Roy Laidlaw ... Baptiste LeBeau, Dolores' Father (uncredited)
- Kewpie Morgan ... Bully in Bar Who Shoots Chinaman (uncredited)
- Charles B. Murphy ... The Half-Breed (uncredited)
The film has been re-made twice by Hollywood, but the original version was believed to have been lost. However, a print of the original film was found in Europe, restored in 1985, and re-released. A copy of the film is in the Library of Congress film archive, and it has been released on DVD by Milestone Films.
- Dawn E. Monroe, On The Job: Canadian Women of Achievement
- Morris, Peter (1978). Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895-1939. Monteal: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 95–126. ISBN 0 7735 0323 4.
- Clandfield, David (1987). Canadian Film. Toronto: Oxford University Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 0 19 540581 1.
- Morris, Peter (1978). Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895-1939. Monteal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 107. ISBN 0 7735 0323 4.
- Progressive Silent Film List: Back to God's Country at silentera.com
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