Unconquered is a 1947 adventure film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard. The supporting cast features Boris Karloff, Cecil Kellaway, Ward Bond, Howard Da Silva, Virginia Campbell, Katherine DeMille (the director's daughter), C. Aubrey Smith and Mike Mazurki. It was released by Paramount Pictures. The film depicts the violent struggles between American colonists and Native Americans on the western frontier in the mid-18th century during the time of Pontiac's Rebellion, primarily around Fort Pitt (modern-day Pittsburgh).[4]

Directed byCecil B. DeMille
Produced byCecil B. DeMille
Written byCharles Bennett
Fredric M. Frank
Jesse Lasky Jr.
Jeanie Macpherson (uncredited)
Based onthe novel Unconquered, a Novel of the Pontiac Conspiracy
by Neil H. Swanson
StarringGary Cooper
Paulette Goddard
Narrated byCecil B. DeMille
Music byVictor Young
CinematographyRay Rennahan
Edited byAnne Bauchens
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 24, 1947 (1947-09-24)
Running time
146 min.
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[1]
Box office$5,250,000 (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2][3]


In London in 1763, Abigail "Abby" Hale (Paulette Goddard) is tried for the death of a Royal Navy officer which occurred when she tried to save her sick brother from the press gang. The judge condemns her to be hanged, then offers her the "king's mercy": transportation to the British colonies in North America and a term of "not less than 14 years as an indentured slave, to be sold at auction". She chooses the latter.

Aboard ship as they near Norfolk, Abby incurs the anger of trader Martin Garth (Howard Da Silva), who then insists upon the auction being held there and then. There is a bitter bidding war between Garth and Captain Christopher Holden (Gary Cooper), which Holden wins, for an exorbitant sum. A friend reminds Holden he is engaged. He sets Abby free, but afterward, his fiancee Diana informs him that she has married his brother.

Meanwhile, Garth bribes the slave dealer into saying that Holden was only jesting and never bought her. Garth take her to the western frontier, where he is selling guns to the Indians. Holden's friend John Fraser (Ward Bond) shows him something he got from an Indian who tried to kill him. Holden and Abby's paths cross, but Garth convinces Holden that Abby came to him of her own accord.

Later, Garth makes it clear he is attracted to Abby. However, his Indian wife Hannah, daughter of Chief Guyasuta, shows up with an important message. Garth hastily departs for a meeting. At the meeting are Colonel George Washington, Holden, colonial governor Sir William, and others. They are deeply concerned about a possible native uprising. Holden fears that Pontiac will unite the tribes to wage war. Holden suggests sending someone to take "peace belts" to the Indians; Garth recommends Holden, and Holden accepts. However, when Holden and his two companions are ambushed, he realizes that he needs to deal with Garth. When he comes for Garth, he is reunited with Abby, and their mutual misunderstanding is cleared up before they flee to Fort Pitt.

When Garth comes for Abby, Holden provokes him into a duel. However, Garth has a bill of sale for Abby, so the governor awards her to him. Before Garth can do anything, he is summoned by Guyasuta. He takes Abby along.

When a nearby settlement is wiped out, the governor prepares Fort Pitt for a siege.

Holden walks unarmed into Guyasuta's camp and, by trickery, manages to save Abby from being tortured to death. They escape and, seeing the aftermath of the slaughtering of innocent settlers, head off to warn Fort Pitt against Indian treachery. However, Garth convinces the authorities that Holden is an untrustworthy deserter; he is sentenced to death and Abby is returned to Garth. She makes a bargain with Garth: she will willingly go with him in return for him arranging Holden's escape. He agrees, but plots Holden's death in the escape attempt. Hannah, having been told by Garth that he is abandoning her for Abby, warns Holden, takes his place and is fatally shot.

With no more food left, the acting British commander decides to accept Guyasuta's false promise to let them go unharmed. Fortunately, reinforcements arrive just in time, and the Indians flee. When the relief force enters the fort, however, the besieged see that the soldiers in the wagons are dead. Holden was unable to obtain reinforcements from the nearest British unit because it had suffered grievous casualties, but he was able to get a token force of mostly drummers and bagpipers of the famed Black Watch ... and corpses. Afterward, Holden kills Garth in a shootout, leaving him and Abby free to marry, ending her slavery.



The film cost $4 million, $1 million of which went to the actors' salaries. The salary costs were the largest in de Mille's career to date.[4]

Home video

The film is available on DVD issued by Universal Pictures.

The "White Slave" letter

The original Neil Swanson novel, on which the film was based, was prefaced by an excerpt from a genuine historical document, providing much of the background: a letter concerning the Holdens of Virginia, written by one of their descendants in the frontier village of St. Anthony in Minnesota, at the great falls of the Mississippi, in the summer of 1862 - a century after the time of the plot.

See also


  1. Joseph W. Taylor (21 July 1947). "Biggest Film Firm: Paramount's Puzzler: Will Attendance Slide Be Brief or Prolonged?". The Wall Street Journal.
  2. "All Time Domestic Champs". Variety. 6 January 1960. p. 34.
  3. "Top Grossers of 1947". Variety. 7 January 1948. p. 63.
  4. Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 318-319
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