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The Wild Heart

The Wild Heart(1952)

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At the Welsh border of Shropshire, England, in the late 1800s, beautiful Hazel Woodus lives with her widowed father Abel, a coffin maker and harpist, in a poor hamlet known as God's Little Mountain. In her father's cottage, gentle Hazel cares for Foxy, a young fox she protects from the local hunters, and many other wild animals. To Abel's annoyance, the impressionable Hazel also studies the folklore of her gypsy mother, whose legends include the story of the murderous Black Huntsman. One night, after spending the day in the marketplace, Hazel is on her way home when she hears a carriage approaching from behind. Thinking that the Black Huntsman is after her, she starts to run and stumbles. The driver, Jack Reddin, stops and offers Hazel a ride, and struck by his handsome face and gentlemanly manner, she accepts. Jack, a squire, invites Hazel to spend the night in his manor and tempts her with a trunk full of elegant dresses. As soon as Jack tries to force his attentions on her, however, Hazel bolts outside, where Jack's servant, Andrew Vessons, comes to her aid. Hazel spends the night in the stables, and the next morning Vessons takes her home, promising never to tell Jack where she lives. Later, after Abel complains to Hazel that she is too wild and needs a husband, Hazel swears by her mother's grave that she will marry the first man who comes for her. Jack then begins scouring the countryside for Hazel, but no one will admit to knowing her, and she hides when he inquires about her at the local inn. At a social honoring the arrival of Edward Marston, the new Baptist reverend, Hazel sings a folk song as Abel accompanies her on the harp. Edward is enchanted by Hazel and invites her to join him and his mother for supper. At the Marstons' cottage, Hazel tells the earnest Edward about her vow, while nearby, Jack continues his fruitless search. As he walks her home, Edward proposes marriage, declaring that he loves her more than she loves Foxy. Hazel is reluctant to respond, but finally accepts, not wanting to break her vow. Later, at the Shropshire County Fair, Hazel appears with Mrs. Marston, dressed in some new clothes that Edward had promised her. Jack, who is participating in a horse jumping competition, spies her and threatens to tell Edward that they spent the night together if she fails to meet him later. During their rendezvous, Jack professes his love and offers to marry Hazel, but she insists that she cannot break her promise, as terrible things might happen. The next day, Hazel and Edward are wed, and Edward, who knows that Hazel does not love him and has vowed to God not to touch her until she does, leaves her to sleep alone. Soon after Edward baptizes Hazel, Jack shows up at the Marstons' cottage, feigning neighborliness. Once alone with Hazel, Jack kisses her and tells her to meet him later. Despite reassuring Edward that she is happy, Hazel consults her mother's folklore book and conducts a test to see if she should go to Jack. When the signs point to going, Hazel finds Jack in the woods and, at the end of the night, rides to his manor. Edward searches frantically for Hazel, until he receives a note from her, assuring him that she is well and asking that he not come for her. Hazel moves in with Jack, but is unhappy in the gloomy manor and becomes hysterical when he viciously throws a baby rabbit she has found to his hunting dog. Edward, meanwhile, learns Hazel's whereabouts from his disapproving mother and rushes to see her. Even after Jack announces that Hazel is pregnant by him, Edward offers to take Hazel back. Hazel returns to her husband, but Mrs. Marston refuses to live with her and moves out. Hazel's guilt increases after several villagers come by to tell Edward that the parish will not tolerate Hazel's presence. Just then, a fox hunt led by Jack passes by, and Hazel realizes that Foxy is outside, unprotected. Although she scoops up Foxy, the dog pack continues the chase, finally cornering her at the edge of an abandoned mine shaft. Hazel and Jack fight over Foxy, and Hazel, still clutching her beloved pet, slips into the shaft and falls to her death.