Captain John Smith and Pocohontas (1953)

 

 

Director:  Lew Landers.

Cast:  Anthony Dexter (Capt. John Smith), Jody Lawrence  (Pocahontas), Alan Hale Jr. (Fleming), Robert Clarke (Rolfe), Stuart Randall (Opechanco), James Seay (Wingfield), Philip Van Zandt (Davis), Shepard Menken (Nantaquas), Douglas Dumbrille (Powhatan), Anthony Eustrel (King James), Henry Rowland (Turnbull), Eric Colmar (Kemp), Joan Nixon (Lacuma), William Cottrell (Macklin), Francesco di Ecaffa Lacuma).

Drama about the native American Pocohontas saving the life of Captain John Smith.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

King James I is questioning Captain John Smith of Virginia fame.  The King says that he has received conflicting reports on Smith.  Some say he is the worse rouge possible and others say he is a bold adventurer.  He has Smith tell his tale.

Flashback.  1607.  Jamestown on the James River.  The Virginia settlers are disappointed.  A seditious leader, Wingfield, has placed Captain Smith in chains for mutiny.  But he did this without having the authority to do it.  Settler John Rolfe objects to Smith's imprisonment.  On board ship, Smith fakes a suicide by hanging, overpowers his guards and escapes.  On shore he is confronted with possible capture by the Paspaheghans.  He evades capture and runs to the settlement to report an Indian attack the next morning.  In the attack, the Indians enter the heart of the settlement.  John Rolfe swims out to a ship in the hopes of using the cannon to repel the attack.  The attack is repulsed but the Indians soon renew the attack.  The cannon open up on the settlement and kill quite a few of the enemy, while the settlers hide in a ditch used like a fox hole.  The attack is repulsed. 

Captain Smith wins an informal election to be the leader as opposed to Wingfield.  His first act of governing is to have a stockade built.  Rolfe reports to Smith that they may have to go on half-ration or less because of the food shortage.  Smith makes up his mind to make peace with Chief Powhatan.  Rolfe and Fleming go with him.  Along the way Captain Smith meets the frightened Pocohontas.  He assures her that he will not harm her, but while Smith is doing something else, she runs away. 

Pocohontas's brother Nantaquas tries to kill Smith and his companions, but the arrows just bounce off Smith's chest.  (He wore armor beneath his clothes.)  Nantaquas believes Smith is a god and brings him to meet his father Chief Powhatan.  Powhatan knows more about the whites and knows that Smith is no god.  The three settlers are tied up.  The hostile warrior Opechanco is just about to cut Smith's head off when Pocohontas throws herself over his body and saves him.  His life and the lives of the other two are spared.  Following tradition, Pocohontas marries the man she saved.  Pocohontas agrees to the marriage because she wants to keep the peace.  (It's funny, but the Paspaheghans wear the elaborate feathered headdress of some of the Plains Indians.) 

Pocohontas goes with the Smith and his companions to the settlement.  Wingfield thinks he has found gold in Virginia.  He and two other evil-doers, Davis and Turnbull, plan to claim the gold fields and so they plan to make the settlement fail.  Smith is talking about returning to England and Pocohontas is upset because she thinks she will be left behind. 

Opechanco enters the settlement in an attempt to steal a gun.  He is discovered, captured and thrown into a make-shift jail.  There Wingfield befriends him.  He tells Opechanco that he will help him escape and give him many guns and powder so that they can attack the settlement (but of course sparing the three badmen).  Opechanco agrees and he is let out to return to his village.  The settlers find Opechanco gone and think that someone had to have helped him escape.  Two dozen guns went with the escapee. 

One day settler Macklin discovers the three bad men negotiating with Opechanco.  He asks the three what is going on and sees that they are giving guns and powder to the Indians.  He turns to go return to the settlement to tell Captain Smith, but Turnbull kills him with a knife throw to Macklin's back.

John Smith fights with Pocohontas over his lack of love for her, but then he kisses her putting and end to the quarrel.  While Smith is gone from the settlement, Wingfield tries to blame Nantaquas for helping Opechanco to escape and for the death of Macklin.  He has Nantaquas whipped.  After a couple of lashes, Smith returns and stops the whipping.  Pocohontas tells Smith that she believes Wingfield himself killed Macklin.  John Smith says he does not disagree.  He finally tells her that he loves her.

The Indians attack the stockade.  Turnbull is killed by an arrow.  Opechanco kills Nantequas with a hatchet blow to his back.  The attack is repelled, but Smith is worried that the next attack will be the end of the settlement, so he challenges Opechanco to a duel.  In the duel Smith kills Opechanco. 

One of the settlers shows Smith the gold he found.  But Smith knows that it is just fool's gold.  Wingfield, however, does not believe the Captain.  He thinks that Smith just wants the gold for himself.  But it is Wingfield who wants all the gold for himself.  He kills Davis and then tries to set the powder hut on fire.  Smith struggles with Wingfield in the hut and just manages to get out before the powder explodes, killing Wingfield.  Smith is wounded by the explosion and Pocohontas nurses him aboard ship.  He must return to England to get better medical care and he wants to take Pocohontas with him.  But Pocohontas decides that she will stay in Virginia to make sure the settlement survives. 

Back to the present.  "That is the story, your Majesty."  John Rolfe and Pocohontas, believing Smith dead, married.  They later came to England.  Pocohontas dies there and is buried there.  In London there is a monument to her. 

 

Just an o.k. movie.  It is a "B" movie with relatively unknown actors.   The plot is like that of an old time weekly thriller series.  It is not very accurate historically speaking, the truth sacrificed for the "exciting" script.  I thought Anthony Dexter was not a good choice for Captain Smith.  He just does not have the look of a man of bold action.  Jody Lawrence was o.k. as Pocohontas, but nothing special. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

For historical Background, see The New World (2005)

 

 

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