Symbol of the Unconquered, The (1920): Oscar Micheaux’s Landmark Silent Film

The Symbol of the Unconquered

The Symbol of the Unconquered
(The Wilderness Trail)
The Symbol of the Unconquered 1920 newspaperad.jpg

newspaper advertisement.

The Symbol of the Unconquered (aka The Wilderness Trail) is a 1920 silent interracial drama produced, written and directed by Oscar Micheaux.

Micheaux’s fourth feature-length film, along with Within Our Gates, is among his early surviving works.  There’s a print of the film at MoMA.

The Symbol of the Unconquered, made at Fort Lee, New Jersey, was released by Micheaux on November 29, 1920.

File:The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920).webm

The Symbol of the Unconquered

Meanwhile, criminals August Barr and Tugi are meeting with Barr’s brother-in-law Peter Kaden. They tell Kaden they need important documents, and force him to retrieve the documents himself. He goes there later, startling Eve so much that her scream is heard. Kaden runs away before being discovered by Van Allen, who calms Eve down and offers to keep watch for the rest of the night.

Driscoll, who has quit the hotel business, sells stolen horses to Van Allen. Van Allen is then approached by the horses’ owner and learns of Driscoll’s nature. He confronts Driscoll at the saloon where the they fight, which Van Allen wins; Driscoll vows revenge.

At the post office Driscoll picks up a letter meant for Van Allen that was accidentally dropped. After reading it he learns that Van Allen’s land has incredible value and reveals the information to Barr and Tugi. They enlist the help of Bill Stanton, a Ku Klux Klan member, and leave threatening notes outside of Van Allen’s tent.

This doesn’t work, and Bill Stanton decides to ride onto the land one night with other Klan members. Their attack fails due help from members of the community, a colored man with brick, and Van Allen finally learns the reason his land is sought after is the abundance of oil fields.

Two years later, Van Allen has become an oil king running his company. Eve drops by to deliver a letter from The Committee for the Defense of the Colored Race that reveals Eve’s black parentage.

The film ends with Van Allen learning the truth and the two declaring love for each other.

Cast

Cast:

Iris Hall as Eve Mason

Walker Thompson as Hugh Van Allen
Lawrence Chenault as Jefferson Driscoll
Mattie Wilkes as Mother Driscoll
Louis Dean as August Barr
Leigh Whipper as Tugi, Indian Fakir
E. G. Tatum as Abraham

George Catlin as Dick Mason

Edward Fraction as Peter Kaden

Release date: November 29, 1920

Running time: 54 minutes; 7 reels (some say 8 reels, IMDb says 5 reels)
Note:

TCM showed the movie on May 25, 2021.