Battles of Chief Pontiac (1952)

 

 

Director:  Felix E. Feist.

Starring:  Lex Barker (Lt. Kent McIntire), Helen Westcott (Winifred Lancaster), Lon Chaney Jr. (Chief Pontiac), Berry Kroeger (Col. von Weber), Roy Roberts (Maj. Gladwin), Larry Chance (Hawkbill), Katherine Warren (Chia), Ramsay Hill (Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst), Guy Teague (Von Weber's aide), James Fairfax (Guardhouse sentry), Abner George (Doctor).

Lt. Kent McIntire tries to make peace with Chief Pontiac to save Fort Detroit.

 

O.K. movie.  Faded black and white, but certainly viewable.  Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa, 1753-1769, believed that whites and native American could live together.  The English controlled the area where the chief lived, but the mercenary Hessians carried out the patrols.  Leading the Hessians was Colonel von Weber who disagreed with Pontiac, believing that the Indians were savages that could not live with whites.  Colonel Weber sets a village on fire and tells his troops there will be no prisoners taken. 

At headquarters, Sir Jeffrey Amherst congratulates Colonel Weber on his achievements.  He is given the order to advance to Fort Detroit and to tell Major Gladman there that he is to hold the fort at all costs. (Although Col. Weber is higher in rank than Major Gladman, Sir Jeffrey tells the Colonel that he is only to take command of the fort in a crisis.)   Ranger Lt.  Kent McIntire, reports in and protests against Colonel Weber's abominable tactics. 

Lt. McIntire heads to Fort Detroit ahead of Col Weber.  On his way he spots an Ottawa raiding party with white women captives.  At a rest spot, he is able to sneak up to the women to talk to one of the hostages, Winifred Lancaster.  She tells him that she and the other women are from Fort Kandusky.  Hawkbill takes a liking to Winifred and wants her for his own.  The Lt. heads out to meet with his friend Chief Pontiac who agrees that the women will be returned to the whites.  To save Winifred from the clutches of Hawkbill, Lt. McIntire pretends that she belongs to him.  (But Hawkbill still intends to have Winifred for himself and threatens that he will kill Lt. McIntire.)

Von Weber arrives at Fort Detroit, telling Von Weber that he is in charge.  Getting into a dispute with Lt. McIntire, he sends the ranger to the stockade.  The Lt. escapes and heads to Pontiac's village.

Will the Lieutenant be able to warn Pontiac of the presence of the war-like Col. Weber?  Will the Lieutenant be able to save Ft. Detroit despite the inhumane strategy of the Colonel?  And will Winifred and the Lieutenant become more than pretend lovers?  Or will Hawkbill play the role of the spoiler?

This is not a great movie, but I wasn't expecting it to be.  It is a B or less movie and so I was happy with it.  I got what I had expected.  It is a simple story with the emphasis on heroism and action.  It was nice to see Lon Chaney Jr. again after a long hiatus.  But the guy doesn't have much of a range of emotions.  He always has that rather sad sack expression on his face.  Helen Westcott is pretty and Lex Barker is handsome and both do a good job for a B movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.   

 


Historical Background:

1712-1725  --  Pontiac born sometime during this period, perhaps at an Ottawa village on the Detroit or Maumee Rivers.  It is believed his father was an Ottawa and his mother an Ojibwa (both of the Anishinaabe people). 

by 1755  --  he was a prominent war leader among the loose confederacy of Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwa people.

1755 (July 9)  -- he might have participated in the French victory over Braddock at the outset of the French and Indian War.

1760  --  Robert Rogers, a famous British frontier soldier, said he met with Pontiac, but many consider this unreliable. 

1765  --  Rogers wrote a play about Pontiac called Ponteach: or the Savages of America.  This helped make Pontiac famous. 

Under General Jeffrey Amherst, following the British victory in the French and Indian War, ammunition and supplies were cut to the local Indians. 

Pontiac decided that the new policies of the British should be resisted. He took advantage of the general dissatisfaction among the native Americans and combined this with a religious revival inspired by a Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet named Neolin. 

1763 (April 27)  --  Pontiac held a large council about 10 miles below Fort Detroit (now Council Point Park, near Lincoln Park, Michigan) where he urged resistance to the British.  This led to what is known as Pontiac's Rebellion in Ohio Country.  Pontiac, however, inspired the rebellion, he did not lead it.  

1763  -- Indian failure to take Fort Detroit.

Pontiac then moved on to Illinois country where he also preached resistance against the British.

1766 (July 25)  --  meeting with the British superintendent of Indian affairs Sir William Johnson at Oswego, New York, Pontiac agreed to end hostilities.

1768  --  due to local problems, Pontiac was forced to leave his Ottawa village on the Maumee River. He returned to Illinois country.

1769 (April 20)  --  Pontiac was murdered at the French village of Cahokia (almost opposite St. Louis, Missouri) by a Peoria Indian.  This may have been in retaliation for an earlier attack by Pontiac.

 

 

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