"I don't believe God is dead. Just drunk."- John Huston
Sung by Richard Harris / written by Jim Webb
(A curious analogy: - not knowing the origins of Webb's controversial lyrics greatly affect some people's appreciation of this song - or whether you can even appreciate it at all. But I won't get into that here ...)
At the outset, I do wonder if this film - though interesting and enjoyable - is really worth such of any such in-depth analysis? It's not an epic of Oscar proportions. And it's obviously possible to watch Man in the Wilderness and enjoy it without pondering any of the musings that I am about to attempt. However, that never stopped me before.
I have just re-watched Man in the Wilderness - for the first time in many years. I had been disinclined to watch it again at all since I recalled my first viewing - back in 1971 - was a disappointment. But I was a young fool of 23 back then - and may have been impaired in some manner. Now however, I am much more handsome and have risen in brilliance (cough). Not that I wouldn't trade for a second.
Anyway, I now find the film to be a much different experience than it was on my first ride. And I see several points of interest that I had not noticed before. I hope you'll agree.
Firstly, despite Richard Harris' capably and worthy Star Power in the film, John Huston presence in this movie is huge - a VERY LARGE elephant in the room -- though he did not Direct (Richard C. Sarafian, Director) - his stamp and shadow loom all over the movie. And it's damn certain that Huston would not consent to any project that didn't suit him somehow. All his dues had been paid - and then-some.
A brief Bio sketch of Huston becomes necessary:
At the making of the film Huston was already legendary in the Film trade/Arts - having been voted 10 times for Oscars, won Oscars for Directing, Screenwriting and Acting. Many of his films are classics: (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The African Queen (1951) (both with Bogart), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), Moby Dick (1956), The Unforgiven (1960), The Misfits (1961), Freud (1962), The Night of the Iguana (1964). The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966). Fat City (1972), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Wise Blood (1979), Under the Volcano (1984), Prizzi's Honor (1985).
Just about all of Huston's movies are a required study for any entering the film trade. Very few people have a legacy such as this.
Huston was raised of rugged, but cultured parents - participated in Vaudevillian circles - was Amateur Lightweight Boxing Championship of California - later in "Mexico became an officer in the cavalry and expert horseman while writing plays on the sly" - later studied Art in Paris, where the sometimes "homeless beggar" continued writing. - returned to America to pay more dues on Broadway - and eventually his first loud flash of fame as screenwriter and director for the Dashiell Hammett mystery yarn The Maltese Falcon (1941). (This movie classic made a superstar out of Humphrey Bogart) - Bio info gleaned from on Intermet Movie Database / IMDB)
Huston Trivia (IMDB):
Often labelled as massively eccentric, Huston was his own man - and there is much more that could be written on him here. I don't think any BioPic could do Huston justice - though Clint Eastwood attempted a snapshot of his character in White Hunter Black Heart (1990). Maybe a long Mini-Series? But even then ...
Strangely, Huston is revealed as strongly religious - and we see plenty of evidence in his films. Most obviously, of course, in The Bible: In the Beginning.. (1966).
But this is also revealed in Man in the Wilderness. As you'll see.
In short, I'd guess that Huston related strongly with Hugh Glass' (Man in the Wilderness) - his character and courage.
That's enough for today ...
Man in the Wilderness / Part 3