HIS MOUNTAIN. HIS PEACE. HIS GREAT HUNTS. HIS YOUNG BRIDE. WITH ALL THAT, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT.
Sometime after the Mexican War, Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) heads into the Rocky Mountains to become a trapper, but it’s a hard life… Sydney Pollack reunited with Redford after This Property Is Condemned (1966) for a drama in the wilderness, based on a real-life legendary figure, Liver-Eating Johnson, who ended up in a long, bloody conflict with Crow Indians. He was known as a hulk of a man, so Redford may initially not feel quite right in the lead but quickly owns the part. Jeremiah Johnson’s journey has a mythical and episodic touch to it, but remains brutally compelling throughout. Pollack fought to have the movie shot in Utah and it has a beautiful, evocative look, boosted by an emotional music score.
1972-U.S. 116 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Joe Wizan. Directed by Sydney Pollack. Screenplay: John Milius, Edward Anhalt. Books: Vardis Fisher (”Mountain Man”), Raymond W. Thorp, Robert Bunker (”Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson”). Cinematography: Duke Callaghan. Music: Tim McIntire, John Rubinstein. Cast: Robert Redford (Jeremiah Johnson), Will Geer (Bear Claw Chris Lapp), Stefan Gierasch (Del Glue), Allyn Ann McLerie, Charles Tyner, Josh Albee.
Trivia: Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood were allegedly considered for the lead; Sam Peckinpah as director.
Last word: “It was a real hard film to make, but it was good to make. When it was over, [Pollack and I] were proud of it. Really, really proud of it. It had been very physical, and we had gone through the various seasons, and been in the snow. When I was over there, the studio came and said, ‘Hey, we really like this film. It’s different.’ We were thinking, ‘Well, great.’ And they said, ‘Well, that’s our problem.’ We said, ‘What do you mean?’ They said, ‘We don’t know how to sell it. We don’t know how to market it.’ I said, ‘Well, can’t you market it as something different?’ ‘No, you don’t understand the business.’ Three and a half years it sat on the shelf without being released.” (Redford, Vanity Fair)