I’ve wanted to review The Last of the Mohicans (1992) for a while, because it’s a movie I’ve enjoyed in the past, but I’ve been stopped because it has some problematic elements that I’m not sure if I’m the best person to tackle, and because it seems ludicrous to review the film without having some insight into the costumes worn by indigenous characters. I did some reading on the first issue, and reached out on social media on the second — and found a few possible leads for people who can comment on the accuracy of the Native American dress, but nothing that’s panned out. So I thought what I could do would be to do a review of the pieces I can comment on, and put out a plea: if you know about Wyandot/Huron and/or Mohawk dress in the mid-18th century, or know someone who does and would be willing to chat, please reach out! In the meantime, I’ll present what I’ve found so far, and primarily discuss the Anglo women’s costumes.
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Hi Kendra, don’t know if i”m the only person having this problem but there’s an error message when I click the link to the post on Patreon. Thanks! :)
Fixed it now, sorry!
I remember when this movie came out, my dad and other adults in the NDN community really disliked the title. Mohicans are still around, no matter what the film says.
Well it’s the title of a well-known book from 1826.
It’s hugely problematic, and I discuss that in the post! Cooper’s novel is all about “the fading of the noble Indian,” which is serious bullshit. More nuanced discussion in the post :)
I read the book too long ago to recall much, but I read it for a class in which we watched both the 1920s silent version and the 1990s one. I’m sure if I went back and re-read and rewatched the book and the silent film, I’d be more attuned to the flaws–which no doubt include an entirely non-native cast for the movie (unlike the 90s film). But at the time the 20s film seemed to me to care more about the native characters, and, unlike the 90s one, it didn’t feel an obligation to make Hawkeye the main character or a pseudo-native to be of interest to its audiences. All that said, an obvious best approach that neither film (nor the book) took when it comes to indigenous peoples’ stories…
A friend, sadly no longer with us, did some work on the European costumes (specifically, the French uniforms) and said that the guy who was employed to design the Native American costumes did all the research he possibly could on 18th-century Huron dress, had a specimen outfit made, and hired a full-blood Iroquoian to model it for the director – who looked for a while then said ‘I dunno – it just doesn’t say ‘Huron’ to me’ and demanded more feathers and paint.
Ok that’s some good dirt!
Wowzers. Quite a story.
Not really what you’re asking for, but reenactor James Neel has some interesting insights/dirt haha on the military/reenactment front of the movie and its logistical messes. He was also an extra and advisor on Glory (1989) – you can see him several times in that movie. His account of both is quite interesting. He had this to say comparing the two directors: “If I ever see [Ed Zwick] again I would certainly like to apologize for speaking out-of-turn – after working subsequently with a real jerk for a director in the person of Michael Mann I realize what a privilege it was working with Ed Zwick.”
His account of the military/reenactment side of the production:
A prop from this movie– actually, I guess it was officially a part of a costume– was in my former workplace back in the ’90s, because a co-worker’s sister worked on the film.
It was a sheathed knife that would go on a belt, but it was all molded out of some sort of foam latex and non-functional.
Just one solid piece with a strap on the back to slide the belt through, painted to look like a “bone” handle and multi-colored “beading” on the “leather” sheath. (Can’t remember if this had a painted “metal” hilt as well.)
It seemed really unconvincing when you held it in your hands, but if you just looked at it from a short distance on his bookshelf, it looked real.
This is a well-made film, but I dislike more of it than I like – partly out of sheer bulldog patriotism, partly because it forgets that Chingachook & Hawkeye are Those Two Guys (Rather than the latter being a Romantic Hero*), but most of all because, like almost every other high-profile adaptation, it’s too chicken-hearted to throw in a little David Gamut action by way of comic relief!
*I’d argue that UNCAS is The Hero of the novel.
“*I’d argue that UNCAS is The Hero of the novel.”
He is, and if there’s any romantic tension to be found in the book, it’s between Uncas and Cora, but, well, Hollywood gonna Hollywood.
(This is in fact the extremely petty reason I have refused to watch this movie. They managed to out-White Savior the original source material!)
It’s a terrible novel, but the movie has very little to do with Cooper’s work. The only good thing about Cooper’s writing is that it inspired Mark Twain to produce a series of hilarious criticisms.