powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
Lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem are read at the end of the film. The film contains only Indian characters, but several reviews complained that the film's portrayals were inauthentic. The Los Angeles Catholic newspaper The Tidings complained that the film "presents Hollywood Boulevard Indians, who, despite marked physical and historical attributes, never pass for redskin braves," and Los Angeles Examiner criticized the stilted dialogue and commented that "makeup for the virtually non-Indian cast is applied too heavily and is obvious in the color film." Hiawatha was actor Vince Edwards' first major film role. According to Christian Science Monitor, producer Walter Mirisch prepared the original outline for the film. Location shooting was done at Bass Lake in California, and, according to an April 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, in Missoula, MO. A June 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Tony Russell to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
In September 1950, according to Time, Monogram announced that the project was being shelved, as the pacifism advocated by the character "Hiawatha" was "too close, for current U.S. taste, to the Communist 'peace' line." Monogram president Steve Broidy, quoted in Los Angeles Daily News, stated, "Because of the tremendous influence that the motion picture industry exerts internationally, producers are being extremely cautious in preventing any subject matter to [sic] reach the screen which might possibly be interpreted as Communistic propaganda to [sic] even the slightest degree. The Hiawatha screenplay, written by a scenarist (Arthur Strawn) whose Americanism is unquestioned, still left us with the feeling that Communistic elements might conceivably misinterpret the theme of our picture, despite its American origin, and that is why we have postponed its production."
In January 1951, the film was put back on the production roster. At that time, president Broidy, as quoted in Variety, explained that "the avalanche of editorial comment which greeted our announcement convinced us unquestionably that the American public would not be dupes for any Communist line, and that our Hiawatha picture could only serve the highest ends of education and entertainment." Another screen adaptation of Longfellow's poem was produced in 1913 by Frank E. Moore, and featured an all-Indian cast. For more information on that film, see entry for Hiawatha in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20.