Cast & Crew
In 1754, the British and the French vie for control of the territory surrounding the Great Lakes. Forced to take sides, the peaceful Mohican tribe forms an alliance with the English, while the warlike Mingo people join with the French. On the day on which war is declared, the Mingos attack and destroy a Mohican village, leaving alive only a small boy and a brave named Chingachgook. Chingachgook's friend, the Pathfinder, a white man reared by the Indians, is loath to assist either the British or the French because both countries are guilty of taking land from the Indians. When he realizes, however, that the Mingos and the French, enemies of the Mohicans, vastly outnumber the British, he agrees to become a spy for British Col. Duncannon. The colonel tells Pathfinder to pose as a scout for the French and assigns Welcome Alison, an attractive young Englishwoman, to serve as his interpreter. The two take an immediate dislike to each other and bicker all the way to the French fort at San Vincent, a key post through which all of the supplies to the surrounding French forts are carried. At San Vincent, Col. Brasseau, who for some time has tried to persuade the renowned Pathfinder to serve as a scout for the French, welcomes Pathfinder amiably, even though Arrowhead, the Mingo chief, still considers him a Mohican enemy. Welcome is introduced as Paulette, the sole survivor of a Delaware Indian attack. Later that day, Pathfinder challenges Arrowhead to a fight in order to win the respect of the Mingo tribe. He fights bravely and wins, but Arrowhead still distrusts him. During a soirée held in her honor, Welcome charms a French officer and learns enough about the route of the expected supply train to enable Pathfinder to intercept it. When she reports this information to Pathfinder late that night, both finally admit their feelings for each other and embrace. The next day, Pathfinder makes the French believe that the Delawares are about to attack San Vincent, and in the resulting confusion, he steals two kegs of gunpowder. He and Chingachgook then blow up the road to San Vincent, making it impossible for the supply train to deliver its goods to the fort. Later, Capt. Clint Bradford, a renegade British officer who earlier had abandoned Welcome for Lokawa, the daughter of a Tuscarora chief, arrives at San Vincent to negotiate an alliance between the Tuscarora and the French. Bradford visits Welcome during the night and offers to accompany her back to London with the gold the French will give him for negotiating the alliance. When Welcome repulses his advances, he angrily threatens to reveal her identity. Welcome later tells Lokawa about Bradford's plans, but Bradford appears and slaps his wife, calling her a "red pig." Pathfinder and Chingachgook set off explosions at the Mingo camp, and while Brasseau is away from his quarters, they sneak in and steal the French territorial defense plans. Bradford sees them, however, and although Chingachgook escapes with the plans, Pathfinder and Welcome are arrested as spies. The two are about to be executed when the British launch a surprise attack on the fort. As the troops engage in battle, Bradford tries to take control of a ship loaded with women and children. Pathfinder shoots Bradford and rescues Welcome, however, and after Brasseau surrenders to the British, the two lovers share a passionate kiss.
Ed Coch Jr.
Adele St. Maur
Robert E. Kent
The Pathfinder -
In 1950, George Montgomery was cast as Bumppo, alias Nat 'Hawkeye' Cutler, in Phil Karlson's abridged adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans titled The Iroquois Trail. Trailing a brief stint of stardom at Twentieth Century-Fox during World War II, Montgomery was now settling in as an action star excelling in cheap Westerns and other programmers, and another Cooper adaptation was on the horizon.
While The Pathfinder (1952) was nominally adapted from a later entry in the "Leatherstocking Tales" - written at a time when Cooper had some reservations about penning yet another entry in the Natty Bumppo saga -the film version scripted by Robert E. Kent and directed by Sidney Salkow borrowed elements from all five Leatherstocking books and ultimately had little to do with the novel that bears its name. Producer Sam Katzman was clearly striving for was a straight-ahead bareknuckle action picture, with Cooper's original placid love story traded in for perfunctory romance. Only the vibrant Great Lakes setting was retained (although the film was shot in and around California's Malibu Canyon).
The story sees the return of Natty Bumppo, this time saddled with a new moniker - the Pathfinder. Like that of its predecessor, the story takes place in the early years of the French and Indian War, this time with Pathfinder seeking to avenge the recent French massacre of the Mohicans by acting as a British spy and infiltrating the French ranks. However, neither he nor his companion, Mohican tribesman Chingachgook (Jay Silverheels, better known for playing Tonto from The Long Ranger) can speak French, necessitating the enlistment of a woman named Alison (Helena Carter), a refined British woman with French fluency eager to make a fresh go of things after the disgrace of her former husband - a British captain whose drunkenness led him to defect.
While Variety remarked that the actors had a rough time maintaining their accents, the emphasis ultimately lay on the performance of George Montgomery, "...an excellent hero, displaying his muscles in rugged response to the title role's demands." The Pathfinder may not have gone down as one of the superior James Fenimore Cooper adaptations, but like almost every low-budget Columbia Western of the 1950s, it has its roughhewn charms.
By Stuart Collier
The Pathfinder -
Although the onscreen credits state that The Pathfinder was "based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper," as noted in several modern sources, the film also drew upon themes from other novels in the author's Leatherstocking Tales. According to the film's pressbook, some scenes in the film were shot near Van Nuys and Camarillo and in the Malibu Mountains in the greater Los Angeles area. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA issued its certificate for this film only on the understanding that a scene containing an open-mouthed kiss would be deleted. The film was banned in Egypt because it showed British troops victorious over the French.