Last of the Line (1914)
This two-reel Western was produced by Thomas Ince, who had a stock company of Lakota actors and made several movies centering on the lives of Native Americans. Interestingly, he mixed them with Asian-Americans in the movies, including in this case Sessue Hayakawa, who would later become an academy award nominee for his role as the villainous camp commandant in “Bridge on the River Kwai” and also his wife Tsuru Aoki. But the real hero and moral center in this film is Joe Goodboy, a Lakota who plays the proud chief of a village who sends his son (Hayakawa) off to be educated in white man’s school. The son returns as a hopeless drunkard and arrogant jerk, which puts the chief into a deep funk. He decides to ride off into the wilderness to seek solace, but comes across an army caravan under attack. He takes out the last of the raiders with his rifle, then rides in to discover that he has shot his own son, who led the treaty-breaking attack. Since there are no other survivors, the chief conceals his son’s crime, making it appear that he died defending the white men. The movie stands out in that the Native Americans are distinctly human – with both heroic and villainous qualities – neither stereotypes of “noble savages” nor faceless bad guys. The battle is also very well shot for the time, using multiple camera-angles and perspectives to keep the audience ahead of the characters in terms of who is shooting at who.
Director: Jay Hunt
Starring: Joe Goodboy, Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki
Run Time: 26 Min