Articles - Last of the Mohicans (Series) (1957-1958)

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Last of the Mohicans

Last Of The Mohicans Starts On TV Dec, 6

Winnipeg Free Press, Oct 19, 1956

TORONTO (CP) — The first episode of a new television series, The Last of The Mohicans, is to be screened by CBC Dec. 6.

The undertaking, involving 36 half-hour shows, represents a pioneer effort at filming a TV serial in Canada. It is being produced by Normandie Productions Ltd. of Toronto, a Canadian subsidiary of the United States firm, Television Programs of America.

The series of adventures, set in the 1700's and based on James Penimore Cooper's classic about the great Mohican chief Chingachgook, is being filmed in former Indian country at Pickering, Ont., 30 miles east of here.

WINTER SHOOTING

Snow and ice have been written into scripts so that filming, 80 percent of which is on location, can be carried on through the winter. Indoor scenes are shot at a lakeshore studio here, and Hollywood producer Sig Neufeld spends his weekends hunting Canadiana to make sets authentic.

Although the project is backed by more than $1,000,000 capital from the parent American company and the eight chief members of the production staff are Hollywood-trained, most of the technical and acting labor has been supplied by Canada. More than 1,300 Canadians are involved.

Hollywood stars. Lon Chaney as Chingachgook and John Hart as Hawkeye, are enjoying their stay in Canada.

CHANEY LOVES IT

"Dressed in buckskins, a black wig and heavy Indian makeup, Chaney told reporters; "I just love an outdoor life."

Although the Hollywood actors are accomplished horseback riders alter years of appearing in westerns, many Canadian actors have been found to have little skill in the saddle. Stand-ins take over for tricky riding shots.

British-born actress Dawn Leslie, 26, who lakes one of the female leads, is one of the few on the set who can ride.



From CBC Times - Sept 13, 1957



Like all great classics, James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking novels (Deerslayer, Last of the Mohicans, etc.) have had to take a good deal of satiric abuse from other writers, who know a good laugh when they see one.

But such humorous railings don't seem to have diminished the popularity of Cooper's books, either as children's classics or as adventure stories. In fact, it is the durability of the Leatherstocking saga and the epic stature of its hero, Hawkeye the Scout, that probably account for its appeal for moviemakers like Normandie Productions Ltd., whose television serial, The Last of the Mohicans, will be seen for the first time on the CBC-TV network on Sept. 27 (CBWT-7:00 p.m.). The series was made last year by Normandie in association with the CBC and Television Programs of America, who will distribute the series outside Canada.

Wary of Cooper's unwieldy prose, the writers of this series have taken little from the book Last of the Mohicans beyond the chief characters and the setting, and have supplied much of the adventures for the 39 half-hour episodes from their own imaginations. The locale of the story is the territory which is now northern New York State and southern. Ontario, two areas occupied and fought over by the British and the French in the Seven Years' War of 1756-63, the time of the story. The various episodes of frontier adventure are set against a general background of the British-French struggle and the intrigues of the principal Indian nations with the whites, and among themselves.

The two personalities who dominate all episodes are Hawkeye, the frontier woodsman—alert, swift, courageous righter of wrong in this lawless, unsettled period; and the last of the Mohicans, Chingachgook, the great Mohican chief—proud, cunning, relentless and yet magnanimous, torn between love for his dwindling people and a desire that there should be peace between whites and Indians.

The story of the film's making has some significance for the Canadian movie industry, since it was a pilot project for what may well become a flourishing TV film production centre. When the shooting company first began work, only eight of the usual 30 technical positions (producer, director, camera operator, sound man, etc.) were filled by men brought from California.

Aside from the 39 films of the Mohican series, Normandie Productions has created a pool of experienced moviemakers which has made possible the filming of its second series, Tugboat Annie, almost independently of Hollywood guidance. One thing still has to be remedied that caused some inconvenience to the technicians making Mohicans — the lack of studio space and facilities. For about 80 per cent of the time, this lack forced the company into outdoor location shooting, where they were often held up for hours waiting for the right light, while actors shivered in the autumn chill of an estate near Pickering, Ontario, where some of the sets were built.

The Pickering estate has served Mohicans well, however, for it provided a small lake for TV Indians to stage water scenes in their canoes. Beside the lake a small village of tepees was set up, and the carpenters built an entire frontier town (circa 1750) out of logs. Over these premises have stalked in a variety of attitudes and costumes at least half of Toronto's acting population, for each episode involves about 30 people, half of them with speaking parts. Since only the two principals, Hawkeye and Chingachgook (played by U.S. actors John Hart and Lon Chaney, Jr.), appear continuously throughout the series, Last of the Mohicans offered a long list of featured and secondary roles, some of them recurring from episode to episode, plus dozens of minor parts and walk-ons.

Some CBC actors and actresses who will be seen in the series are Don Garrard, singer; Larry Mann, Howdy Doody's Captain Scuttlebut; Bill Walker, TV emcee; Cec Linder, star of Flight into Danger; Tommy Tweed, Stan Francis, Shane Rimmer, Glynn Morris, Ruth Springford, James Doohan, Arch McDonald and Pat Morgan.

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