The Unforgiven is a 1960 Western film directed by John Huston and based on the similarly titled novel by Alan Le May. The movie was plagued by production issues and corporate meddling.
The Zachary family lives on the Texas frontier following the death of their patriarch. His wife Mattilda (Lillian Gish) tries to run their suffering farm with her sons Ben (Burt Lancaster), Cash (Audie Murphy), Andy (Doug McClure), and adopted daughter Rachel (Audrey Hepburn). They work for a local rancher named Zeb Rawlins (Charles Bickford) who leads cattle drives to Wichita and hates the local Native American tribe known as the Kiowa. However, an old enemy of the Zachary family surfaces and reveals that Rachel was not a baby rescued from an abandoned stagecoach, but a Kiowa that was spared from a massacre. This revelation turns Rawlins, his family, and his ranch hands against the Zachary family. Even Cash is furious, leaving the family behind. To make matters worse, the Kiowa people are coming for Rachel and plan on taking her by force.
The film had a troubled history. Huston fought with the film’s producers on the direction of the film. He wanted to make a statement against racism, but they wanted a more commercial Western. Audrey Hepburn suffered a back injury while riding a horse and had a tragic miscarriage shortly thereafter. When it came out, it was met with negative reviews leading Huston, Hepburn, and Lancaster to renounce the film.
That is a shame because the film is a fine example of how a great movie, especially a Western came to be made. It was a good film that messages about prejudices can lead to generational violence. It is not like these modern movies that shove it in your face, but a work of cinema that actually uses subtly, smart dialogue, and clever plot devices to tell its story.
Now the movie does just sort of end, leaving you with an empty feeling. An epilogue or a final scene “wrap up” scene would have served it well, but in my mind, it does not take away from the whole of the film.
Bottom line, The Unforgiven is an underrated Western that has incredible performances by its cast and a meaningful story to tell.
FAVORITE QUOTE: Shoo now! Shoo! Ain’t you got no better manners than to eat at the top of a house?
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Frank discussions of race and violence
You can watch the trailer below:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my reviews of Murder In Texas and The Thing. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.
You can find me everywhere on social media! Facebook: Author Jacob Airey | Instagram: realjacobairey | Twitter: @realJacobAirey | MeWe: Link | YouTube: StudioJake | Minds: Link | Rumble: StudioJake Media