🎥 The Unforgiven – 1960

The Story …

The Zacharys are a thriving and respected family on the Texas frontier. Father Will Zachary was killed by Kiowa Indians, leaving his oldest son Ben (Burt Lancaster) head of the family.

Ben and his mother Matilda (Lillian Gish) are very protective of Rachel (Audrey Hepburn), who was adopted as an infant; she is doted on by the whole family, including her other brothers Cash (Audie Murphy) and Andy (Doug McClure).

The family is supported by their neighbour and Ben’s business partner, Zeb Rawlins (Charles Bickford); Zeb’s shy son Charlie (Albert Salmi) wants to marry Rachel, which concerns Ben …

During preparations for a cattle drive to Wichita, Kansas, the family is unsettled by the appearance of Abe Kelsey (Joseph Wiseman), who claims that Rachel is Indian by birth. Believing this to be a lie, Ben and Cash engage in a gunfight with Kelsey, killing his horse, but he steals Rachel’s beloved white stallion.

Later, a group of Kiowa led by Lost Bird appears and offers Ben horses in exchange for handing over Rachel. Lost Bird claims that she is actually his sister, and that an old white man told him so.

Soon after, Charlie – to whom Ben has decided to give permission to court Rachel – is killed by the Kiowa. In her grief, Charlie’s mother accuses Rachel of being a “dirty Injun”. Ben leads the ranchers in tracking down Kelsey, and they bring him back to the Rawlins ranch to hang him as a horse thief.

With a noose around his neck, Kelsey tells the gathered ranchers that, on a retaliatory raid against the Kiowa that he led with Will Zachary, he found a baby girl and was about to kill her when Will intervened and took the baby as his own. Kelsey claims that his own son was captured by the Kiowa and ransomed for Rachel’s return, but Will refused.

Ben intervenes and tells the gathered group the story he knows, that Kelsey’s son was actually killed in the fighting, and that Kelsey invented the story and followed them from town to town, poisoning peoples’ minds wherever they moved.

Matilda, driven to the edge by Kelsey’s accusations, strikes the horse on which Kelsey is seated, so it runs out from under him, hanging him. Despite protestations that Kelsey was insane, her actions convince Zeb that Kelsey was telling the truth, and he tells Ben to give Rachel to the Kiowa or their partnership will be broken. Ben refuses, and all of the ranchers turn their backs on the Zacharys.

Back at their homestead, Matilda admits to her family that Will took the Kiowa baby and brought her home to replace an infant daughter they had just lost. Cash, unable to accept an Indian as his sister, abandons the family and spends the night with Georgia Rawlins. The Kiowa return to the Zachary ranch in force, demanding Rachel, who tries to save her family by going over to the Kiowa.

To stop her, Ben deliberately breaks the truce by ordering Andy to kill a Kiowa, which touches off a bloody siege. Facing down death, Ben expresses a desire to marry Rachel should they survive. During a break in the fighting, the Kiowa camped nearby play music on their pipes and drums, and the Zacharys play a Mozart composition back on their piano. However, Kiowa riders attack and destroy the piano, resuming the fight.

When the Kiowa stampede cattle over the roof of the house, the family sets it on fire and takes shelter in the root cellar. Matilda, who had been shot earlier, succumbs to her wounds and dies. Almost out of ammunition, Ben embraces Andy and Rachel, and Rachel and he passionately kiss. Just as the family is about to be overwhelmed, a penitent Cash returns and turns the tide by fighting off the remaining Kiowa.

Rachel, protecting a wounded Andy, is confronted by Lost Bird, who enters the house. After a tense moment, she shoots and kills him. With the rest of the tribe gone, Rachel and her brothers exit the house together and watch a flock of geese fly through the sky …

Credits :

  • Directed by John Huston
  • Screenplay by Ben Maddow and David Wolff
  • Based on The Unforgiven 1957 novel by Alan Le May
  • Produced by James Hill
  • Cinematography Franz Planer
  • Edited by Russell Lloyd
  • Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
  • Color Process : Technicolor
  • Production Company : Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions
  • Distributed by United Artists
  • Release Date : April 6, 1960

Cast :

  • Burt Lancaster as Ben Zachary
  • Audrey Hepburn as Rachel Zachary
  • Audie Murphy as Cash Zachary
  • John Saxon as Johnny Portugal
  • Charles Bickford as Zeb Rawlins
  • Lillian Gish as Mattilda Zachary
  • Albert Salmi as Charlie Rawlins
  • Joseph Wiseman as Abe Kelsey
  • June Walker as Hagar Rawlins
  • Kipp Hamilton as Georgia Rawlins
  • Arnold Merritt as Jude Rawlins
  • Doug McClure as Andy Zachary
  • Carlos Rivas as Lost Bird

Film Information Source :


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