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The Unforgiven is an American western film released in 1960. The film was directed by John Huston and starred Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Audie Murphy, Charles Bickford and Lillian Gish. The story was based upon a novel by Alan Le May.
The film, uncommonly for its time, spotlights the issue of racism against Native Americans and people believed to have Native American blood in the Old West. The movie is also known for problems behind the scenes. Huston often said this was his least satisfying movie.
An old man, Abe Kelsey (Joseph Wiseman), claims that a member of a thriving frontier family, Rachel Zachary (Audrey Hepburn), is actually a Native American, secretly adopted as a child. Rachel's true brother and a gang of Kiowas return to claim her, saying that she is one of their own, stolen in a raid. The dispute results in the rest of the whites turning their backs on the Zacharys when the truth is revealed by the matriarch, Mattilda Zachary (Lillian Gish). Ben Zachary (Burt Lancaster)(who is in love with Rachel, with Rachel feeling the same way) tries to defend the family, but Cash (Audie Murphy), his hotheaded brother, is unable to deal with his "sister" being a "red-hide Indian." He leaves, but returns to help them fight off an Indian raid, during which Rachel commits a violent act, thus choosing sides once and for all.
Aside from the unusual casting of Audrey Hepburn, the film is most notable for its behind-the-scenes problems. Production was suspended for several months in 1959 after Ms. Hepburn broke her back when she fell off a horse while rehearsing a scene. Although she eventually recovered, the accident was blamed for a subsequent miscarriage Hepburn suffered. According to several published biographies of Hepburn, she blamed herself for the accident and subsequently all but disowned the film, although she did complete it when she was well enough to return to work. Ms. Hepburn took the next year off work in order to successfully have a child, and returned to the screen in 1961 with Breakfast at Tiffany's.
In addition, Huston was constantly battling with Rick Height and his company, which was financing the movie, over how to film the movie. Height's company wanted a more commercial, less controversial, picture, while Huston wanted to make a statement about racism in America. The result is that neither got exactly what they wanted.
|Burt Lancaster||Ben Zachary|
|Audrey Hepburn||Rachel Zachary|
|Audie Murphy||Cash Zachary|
|John Saxon||Johnny Portugal|
|Charles Bickford||Zeb Rawlins|
|Lillian Gish||Mattilda Zachary|
|Albert Salmi||Charlie Rawlins|
|Joseph Wiseman||Abe Kelsey|
|June Walker||Hagar Rawlins|
|Kipp Hamilton||Georgia Rawlins|
|Arnold Merritt||Jude Rawlins|
|Doug McClure||Andy Zachary|
|Carlos Rivas||Lost Bird|
- Lillian Gish filmography
- The Unforgiven (novel)