MFW: Every day i find more proof that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.
A Celebration of Western Movies… Pardner!
Jeremiah Johnson and Billy the Kid: Stranger than Fiction?
I doubt many care – or even that it’s all that important – but Robert Redford doesn’t look much like the real Jeremiah Johnson.
However … in most Westerns, it don’t really seem to matter whether the actor looks like the actual person – or not. There’s plenty of examples: Kris Kristofferson as Billy the Kid in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Kristofferson was too good looking for ‘the Kid’ – and was also in his 30’s. While the ‘Kid’ was … well … an ugly cuss (if I can tell by the famous photo) and was about 20 years old … almost ‘a kid’. But, James Coburn didn’t look a whole lot like Pat Garrett … I better stop here. Great movie though.
So if likeness’ is a casting necessity … ?
Hell, maybe it’s just too darn hard to find anybody that ugly who can act.
A young Henry Silva actually looks a lot like ‘the Kid”.
In most other movie biographies though, likeness is important. For instance, If you’re playing Winston Churchill … Redford wouldn’t get the job … and also (hopefully) the chance to murder an English accent.
And I do admit that Redford’s ‘matinée idol’ looks did initially grate on me a bit when I first watched Jeremiah Johnson. I figured they should have cast somebody a bit more (or a lot more?) rugged looking than Redford. Someone like Tom Selleck maybe, or Lee Marvin. Bronson? (Trivia says that this movie was initially to star Clint Eastwood as Johnson – and be directed by Sam Peckinpah … WOW! … that would have been a different movie … punk) We didn’t get lucky.
Director Sydney Pollock, however, had a very simple philosophy about making a movie: Employ Stars. Star Power guarantees success. And Pollock surely knew Redford’s Star Power – Directing him in seven movies.
And all in all … Redford did a great job: one of My Favorite Westerns.
The other beef I had with the movie was that the actual (supposed) true story about Jeremiah Johnson seemed more interesting than the movie version.
I suspect, however, that some of these ‘facts’ about Johnson pushed a few credibility buttons … and was hardly the stuff of ‘Heros’. “Liver Eating Johnson”?! Some believe Johnson actually did this. It’s said that the Crow believed that unless a body was intact that the spirit could not pass over. So Johnson removed the liver and … yet it’s also said that Johnson confessed once that this story was a story he propagated (to scare or anger the Crow?) But if you were a cannibal, would you admit it?
Possible. Probable? Believable?
I figure some of these ‘details’ were kept out of the movie because not only do they seem implausible, but they made the character – our Hero – a lot less of a Goodguy.
Then there’s the story that Johnson killed over 300 Crow braves. 300?!! That’s a hell of a lot of empty Teepees. Let’s see … if the Crow sent only one brave at a time (as the movie suggests)… and Johnson killed one brave a month … it would take 25 years to kill 300 Crow. That’s almost as hard to swallow as liver. 30 would be impressive enough … and believable. But 300 … ??? You have to question it.
But who’s counting?
Johnson? The Crow? (I might believe their count). But Johnson’s …
Yet … maybe it’s true.
Billy the Kid’s myth labours under similar suspicious history. Some claim ‘The Kid” really only killed about 4 people … though folklore and myth claim about 20 … or more.
So … the truth is … we really don’t know the truth.
Yet again … sometimes the truth IS indeed ‘stranger than fiction’.
The Ballad of Jeremiah Johnson – Tim McIntire
Jeremiah Johnson made his way into the mountains
Bettin’ on forgettin’ all the troubles that he knew
The trail was wide and narrow
And the eagle or the sparrow
Showed the path he was to follow as they flew.
A mountain man’s a lonely man
And he leaves a life behind
It ought to have been different, but oftimes you will find,
That the story doesn’t always go that way you had in mind.
Jeremiah’s story was that kind. . .
Jeremiah’s story was that kind.
The Way that you Wander … Tim McIntire
The way that you wander is the way that you choose,
The day that you tarry is the day that you lose.
Sunshine or thunder, a man will always wonder.
Where the fair wind blows.
Jeremiah Johnson (Vocal Mix #2): Tim McIntire
An Indian says you search in vain for what you cannot find.
He says you’ll find a thousand ways for runnin’ down your time.
An Indian didn’t scream it, he said it in a song,
And he’s never been known to be wrong.
He’s never been known to be wrong.