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 byDavid Hartford
Produced byJames Oliver Curwood
Ernest Shipman (uncredited)
Written byNell Shipman
StarringNell Shipman
Charles Arling
Wheeler Oakman
Wellington A. Playter
CinematographyDal Clawson
Joseph Walker
Edited byCyril Gardner
Canadian Photoplays Ltd.
Distributed byFirst National Exhibitor's Circuit (later to become First National Pictures)
Release date
October 27, 1919
Running time
73 min
LanguageSilent (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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3][4]


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.[5]


  • 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)

Preservation status

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,[6] and it has been released on DVD by Milestone Films.

See also


  1. Dawn E. Monroe, On The Job: Canadian Women of Achievement
  3. 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.
  4. Clandfield, David (1987). Canadian Film. Toronto: Oxford University Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 0 19 540581 1.
  5. 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.
  6. Progressive Silent Film List: Back to God's Country at
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.