Thursday, August 5, 2010

Davy Boone, Dan'l Crockett & the "Noble Red Man"

OK, here’s the stuff I alluded to yesterday, in my review of Davy Crockett, Indian Scout. Turner Classic Movies presented this as one of several films depicting the treatment of the “noble savage” in Hollywood.

But those words are barely out of host Robert Osborne’s mouth before he turns to his guest pontificator, a professor, writer and film maker of seemingly Native American descent, and asks if “noble savage” is okay to say.

No, opines the prof. “Noble red man” is politically correct. You can no longer say “noble savage,” just like you can no longer say “redskin” or “squaw.”  The professor goes on to define this character type as the friendly Indian companion of the non-Indian hero.

Discussing Davy Crockett, Indian Scout in particular, the prof says, “This is a Davy Crockett who is the Fess Parker Davy Crockett’s uncle.”  (Actually it’s the other way around. The real Davy, played later by Fess, was the uncle of the character in Davy Crockett, Indian Scout.) Now, it’s possible the prof just got his thoughts twisted and mispoke, and I’d be tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but in light of further comments I’m not so sure.

The two go on to discuss the character as if he’s actually the Davy we know, and Osborne clearly has no clue that Robert Montgomery is playing old Davy’s nephew.

Davy (Fess Parker) with his NON-Indian companion, George Russell.

Moving on, they discuss the friendly Indian companion as personified by Jay Silverheels, and neither Osborne or the prof seem aware the Tonto character existed before the Lone Ranger TV series. After tossing around phrases like “a benign but subservient relationship” and “a throwback to the slave mentality,” the prof tells us that Davy Crockett, Indian Scout (1950) “is the beginning of that in the movies.” I guess the serials The Lone Ranger (1938) and The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939) don't count.

After the movie plays, they‘re back. “This is an interesting take on the Davy Crockett character,” says Osborne, “compared to the way Fess Parker played him on television for so many years.” While proving that he wasn’t paying attention to the film, and still doesn’t know George Montgomery was not playing old Davy, Osborne also demonstrates how little he knows of Fess Parker. Parker played Davy in a total of five episodes of the Disney show. Five.

But our film experts aren't done. “Davy Crockett has been portrayed in something like 40 films. Has he always had a sidekick like Red Hawk in all the Davy Crockett movies?”

Yes, the prof says, “an Indian helper, someone who helps them find their way through the forest.” More crap.

While its true Davy has been portrayed on film over 40 times, most of those movies were about the Alamo, and were Indian-free. Of the rest, four are “lost” silent films, but there is no indication they featured Indian companions. Most others are minor made-for-TV productions with - again - no Indian companions. Long after Disney’s original Crockett series, they made another five episodes in 1988-9 starring Tim Dunigan, still without a Tonto.

Daniel (Fess Parker) and his Indian companion Mingo.

I can only guess that Osborne and the prof don’t know the difference between Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. (Yes, Fess Parker did play Boone on television for many years, with his faithful companion Mingo, played by Ed Ames.)

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? Nope. Osborne then turns to the viewer and says, “Now, continuing our examination of the noble savage . . .”


Randy Johnson said...

I grew tired of Osborne long ago. When I record films on the old DVR, I fast forward through that guy every time.

John said...

Another interesting tidbit about this movie...All the major action scenes were from Edward Small's 1940 "Kit Carson" feature starring Jon Hall, Dana Andrews, Ward Bond and a young Clayton Moore.
I watched both films back-to-back a while ago and it's fascinating to see how well they used the old footage.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like they should have done their homework a bit better. Why write this kind of thing without bothering to do the background work? Just sheer laziness it sounds to me. I always liked the Daniel Boone TV series.

Evan Lewis said...

I agree, Charles.

Interesting stuff about the Kit Carson footage. I didn't suspect it was 10 years older than the rest. The whole film had higher production values than I expected, approaching the level of a Republic picture.

David Cranmer said...

Sad that so called experts can't get it right.

Cap'n Bob said...

Osborne was probably reading idiot cards and for all he knew was talking about Tom Sawyer.

Aaron said...

To be fair, Fess Parker was so identified with Davy Crockett that he's the very reason people confuse Davy Crockett and Dan'l Boone. I mean, Boone never even wore a coonskin cap. But everybody always thinks he did, because Fess Parker wore on on TV. And why? because the producers of the TV show were cashing in on Parker's unprecedented popularity as Davy Crockett.

Personally, I find the term "Native American" to be cumbersome. I feel that it not only smacks of political correctness, it makes the folks in question have to associate themselves with the very nation that conquered and humiliated them. I vote that the new preferred term should be "Injun".

It's short, catchy and it's different enough from Indian that it won't be confused with folks from South Asia.

Plus, it has a sort of street cred feel to it.

Evan Lewis said...

It's true the confusion between Davy and Dan'l is widespread. One question employees at the Alamo often hear is, "Did Daniel Boone die here?" Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

He mean GEORGE Montgomery, right? Haha!