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Film: Jeremiah Johnson

A 1972 western film based (allegedly) on the life of real-life mountain man John "Liver Eatin'" Johnson.

Robert Redford stars as the eponymous Jeremiah Johnson, a jaded veteran of the Mexican/American war, who turns his back on the life he has previously led to become a mountain man up in the Colorado Rockies. His first winter is a difficult one which almost ends in starvation, but he is lucky enough to be taken in by the vastly more experienced Bear Claw (Will Geer). During his time up in the mountains, he becomes unwittingly betrothed to a Flathead Indian woman and adopts a mute young boy, only for them to be murdered at the hands of the Crow Indians. It doesn't get any better.


Tropes present in this work

  • Badass Beard: Johnson, most of the time, and Bear Claw.
  • Badass Moustache: Del Gue.
  • Bilingual Bonus: We've got English, French, and what can be assumed are various different Native American languages including those characteristic of the Flathead, Crow and Blackfoot. None of which are subtitled.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After all his trials and tribulations, Paints His Shirt Red finally vows peace with Johnson. Your mileage may vary though, as Johnson losing everything he could have called a family would nonetheless qualify as a Downer Ending.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Averted. When Johnson is little short of forced into marrying Swan, the daughter of Flathead chief Two Tongues, she isn't attracted to Johnson. She's reluctant to marry him and initially hates the situation she finds herself in. Though we do get a nice little scene in which she kills a bird by throwing a stone at it. So not totally averted.
  • Enemies Equals Greatness: literally. Johnson is dismayed to find out that his reputation among the local native tribes is partly due to the fact that the Crow people want him dead.
  • Heroic BSOD: Upon the death of his wife and adopted son, Johnson's silent mourning in his cabin is truly heartbreaking. He then proceeds to bring just about the entire Crow Tribe to their knees.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The Crow's attacks on Johnson.
  • Intermission
  • Mountain Man: This is a FILM ABOUT MOUNTAIN MEN.
  • Noble Savage: Zig Zagged (?). The film presents an extremely diverse view of Rocky Mountain Indians, one which this troper believes is most likely an accurate one. Each tribe is discussed as bearing very different traits. Some are peaceful, some are war-mongering. You should probably watch the film to get an idea of just how diversely the different tribes are portrayed.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Lots of them - the Crow tribe. Their code of honor dictates that they only pursue Johnson one at a time, rather than unleashing a battalion upon him. And Johnson defeats and kills every single one. Paints His Shirt Red finally offers peace after losing so many.
  • Scenery Porn: The entire film is set in the Colorado Rockies. Go figure.
    • But it was actually shot in Utah. Later in his career, Redford bought a ski area on the side of Mount Timpanogos (where portions of the movie were filmed) and renamed it Sundance. It's now the site of the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Johnson adopts a mute young boy who has witnessed his family murdered by Indians. He also marries the beautiful daughter of a Flathead Indian chief and they all begin to live a content, if quiet, life together. Then they are both killed at the hands of the Crow when he is coerced into escorting missionaries across Crow burial ground. And that's it.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: For a film which is very dark, very violent and - more or less - ends badly, John Rubenstein's soundtrack is, for the most part, a tad whimsical for the depressing Shoot the Shaggy Dog tale that it turns out to be.
  • The Stoic: Johnson, for the most part, is a pretty remote guy.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Johnson, avenging the killing of his family and taking on an entire tribe. Your mileage may vary though, as he was pretty badass beforehand (fighting wolves in close quarters combat is badass, isn't it?)
  • The Voiceless: Johnson's 'adopted' son. Not surprising, after witnessing the murder of his family by Natives.
  • What Could Have Been: Clint Eastwood was the original choice to play Johnson.


How the West Was WonIndex of Film WesternsJonah Hex
The Hot RockFilms of the 1970sThe Last House on the Left
The IslandCreator/Warner Bros.Jersey Boys

alternative title(s): Jeremiah Johnson
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