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Jeremiah Johnson-1972


Jeremiah-Johnson-movie-poster-1020192497This Robert Redford film can be seen several times a month and each time I see it, no matter which scene, I stop and watch. Men want to be Jeremiah Johnson and women want to be with Jermiah Johnson it cannot be argued, it a fact. If you like your movies to be fast-moving and action packed this is a film that you will enjoy. If you like Westerns, if you like films about the Human Spirit this film is for you. If you liked Dances With Wolves this blows that movie out of the water.
Robert Redford plays Jeremiah Johnson (a veteran of the Mexican-American War) who wants to escape into the Rocky Mountains and live his life as a “Mountain Man”. The movie follows Johnson through his first year as he struggles to survive and glimpses the protagonist Paints-His-Shirt-Red, the Crow Indian Chief who sees and pities a starving Johnson trying to fish with his bare hands. Johnson meets up with a more seasoned Mountain Man, Bear Claw, who is played by Will Geer but sounds an awful lot like the voice of “Sam the Snowman” of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer fame.
Bear Claw mentors Jeremiah even though their initial meeting is rocky. “I know who you are; you’re the same dumb pilgrim I’ve been hearin’ for twenty days and smellin’ for three.” The two mountain men have a brush with the Crow Indians and Paints-His-Shirt-Red and then part company. Johnson is a bit more capable surviving the high country after having spent time learing from Bear Claw important physical and mental survival skills.
Jermiah increases his party by one when he stumbles upon the survivors of family just massacred by the Blackfoot Warriors. The stricken mother demands that Jeremiah take custody of her son who does not speak. After leaving the homestead Johnson finds the most colorful character of the movie. Del Gue is a bald mountain man and trapper who is buried up to his neck by the Blackfeet Indians. Johnson rescues Del and next Jeremiah finds himself having to refuse the Flathead Indian chief’s gift of his daughter Swan. Del leaves after the Flatheads marry Jermiah to his Indian wife, Swan.  Jermiah, Swan and the boy (Caleb) are forced to become a family of sorts.
Time goes by and the three, who have since built a cabin and life, begin to grow closer. As his life begins to “normalize” the US Calvary enlist him to guide them to find a missing wagon train. Against his wishes they pass through a Crow burial ground and upon returning he senses something his wrong when he notices a few of Swan’s trinkets have been added to the “memorials”. He leaves the Calvary only to find Swan and Caleb have been murdered by the Crows in retaliation for his trespass. Johnson sets off to kill the raiding party who killed his family and lets one of them escape. The escapee tells the tale of his quest  for revenge. Now Jeremiah is in the midst of a bloody feud with the Crows who send warriors one at a time to kill him. The film breaks into a great 5 minute sequence of ambushes and fights which is the most memorable part of the movie.
Jeremiah returns to Caleb’s cabin only to find a new family there and a monument built to honor his fighting prowess. As Johnson sits grilling a rabbit, his old mentor “Bear Claw” makes a visit and shares some rabbit. The conversation is almost ghostly and Johnson finally admits that he is tired. “Bear Claw” leaves and in the final scene Johnson finds himself face to face with his the Chief of the Crows, Jeremiah reaches for his rifle thinking this is the final battle and Paints-His-Shirt-Red raises his palm in a sign of peace. The film ends with “The Ballad of Jeremiah Johnson”.  As thesong plays and the credits roll you will find yourself wishing it would play again.


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I am a Married Father of two boys. I fell in love with Classic Movies ten years ago. My perfect evening is a glass of wine on my couch with my wife while watching a classic movie that most people I know don't realize exists. Please follow along with me as I relive my old favorites and discover new ones.

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