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Film / The Wind and the Lion

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A 1975 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Action-Adventure film directed by John Milius, The Wind and the Lion tells a fictionalized version of the 1904 "Pedicaris incident."

When an American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen), and her two children are kidnapped in Morocco by a Berber chieftain, Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli (Sean Connery), President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) sends warships and Marines, leading to an international confrontation. The film focuses on the personal conflict between Roosevelt and Raisuli, and on the romance between Raisuli and Mrs. Pedicaris.

The Wind and the Lion is a good old-fashioned high adventure. While it does not allow the beauty of the thing to be spoiled with obsessive accuracy, it features loving attention to period details, impressive set-piece action sequences, memorable acting and dialogue, and a sweeping musical score by Jerry Goldsmith.

John Milius later also directed and wrote The Rough Riders, a spiritual prequel.

This Film features examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Many.
    • "I am bluffing too."
    • Mrs. Pedicaris playing chess with Raisuli.
    • Most of Roosevelt's scenes, though because he is TR they often take place while he's engaging in activities like hunting, boxing or target shooting.
  • Action Mom: Mrs. Pedicaris is always one, although she doesn't actively wield a weapon until half-way through the movie.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Bashaw is this to a T. The Sultan, despite being a spoiled Royal Brat, borders on being an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, since he's shown to be completely in over his head and unaware of how to handle a complex diplomatic situation.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Amusingly and pointedly averted with the Japanese ambassador during Roosevelt's birthday dinner. The Secretary of State had been condescending to the ambassador since the dinner began (asking such insipid questions as "Likee forkee", in regard to the silverware they were using). And then the ambassador stands to give Roosevely a rather eloquent congratulatory speech in perfect, unaccented English, after which he sits down, smiles at the Secretary of State, and asks the man, "You likee speechee?"
  • Badass Boast
  • Big Damn Heroes: Raisuli rescuing the Pedicaris family from the desert bandits
  • Blood Knight
    • In the fight with the bandits, and the final duel with von Roerkel, Raisuli is clearly enjoying himself.
    • Captain Jerome and the Marines in general
    • Theodore Roosevelt would love to get out of DC, go to Morocco, and be one himself.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Lots of it. Possibly the best example comes when Raisuli, warned not to risk his life in the hostage exchange, warily declares: "What does my life matter? I've nothing else to do."
  • Catchphrase: several.
  • The Cavalry
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: The Raisuli's men easily massacre a unit of Foreign Legionnaires in the opening scene; the Germans later in the film are tougher opponents.
  • Composite Character: The Sherif Wazan was two separate men in real life.
  • Cool Sword: The Raisuli's golden-handled saber, which gets its own loving introductory shot.
  • Creator Cameo: John Milius plays a one-armed arms merchant who sells the Sultan a machine gun. Sir Joshua Kenyon-Smith is the film's cinematographer, Billy Williams.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Mrs. Pedicaris and her son William.
  • Deadpan Snarker: at various times, Theodore Roosevelt, his Secretary of State John Hay, and Mrs. Pedicaris, but Raisuli has the best snark of all:
    Eden Pedicaris: Why would anyone want to cut out a man's tongue?
    Raisuli: Perhaps the previous owner had nothing pleasant to say.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Raisuli rides off alone, leaving Mrs. Pedicaris behind.
  • Dramatic Irony: Several participants acknowledge that if their military action fails, the whole world will be swept into a war. They marvel at such a concept about ten years before it actually happens for the first time.
  • Eagleland: President Roosevelt's musings on the character of the American grizzly bear. "The American Grizzly Bear is the symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity... a little blind and reckless at times..." Also plays out with the reckless adventurism of the Marine captain.
  • Evil Uncle: Played with. Both Raisuli and the vizier are the Sultan's uncles.
  • Final Battle: The three-sided confrontation between the Bashaw's retainers and the Germans holding Raisuli, the Berber cavalry attacking the town from the outside, and Mrs. Pedicaris and the Marines in the middle.
  • Foreshadowing: There are numerous foreshadowings of World War I.
    • At one point, Raisuli scoffs at Industrial Age warfare: "The Europeans have guns which fire many times promiscuously and rend the earth, but there is no honor in this; nothing is decided by this."
    • Captain Jerome: "Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world DOES go to war!"
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Mrs. Perdicaris gets over Sir Joshua (killed fighting the Raisuli's men in the opening scene) pretty easily.
  • Funny Background Event: While Roosevelt is ruminating on the grizzly bear, a horse is rolling in the background. The director's commentary remarks that that was a coincidence, and that most people would have reshot the take.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Theodore Roosevelt; Also, Sir Joshua Kenyon-Smith, the Briton who runs out of bullets ("Oh, damn.") in the opening fight sequence
  • Going Native: The kids have no problems with the idea, although their mother certainly does.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The beheading sequence
  • Gunpoint Banter: Mrs. Pedicaris and Captain Jerome
  • Happy Birthday to You!: This is one of the works that substitutes "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" for "Happy Birthday to You". It may be justified given the time period, but it's hard to say for sure. "Happy Birthday to You" first appeared in print in 1912, but it may have existed before that.
  • Historical Beauty Update: This is what the Raisuli actually looked like.
  • Historical Domain Character: Raisuli, Roosevelt, Hay, Samuel Gummere, Admiral Chadwick, Sultan Abdelaziz, even the Sherif of Wazan were all real people.
  • Historical Gender Flip: Pedicaris was a man in the real-life incident the film was loosely based on.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Most historical accounts show Raisuli as a vicious mixture of feudal bandit and political power player. For instance: Walter Harris recounts that when Raisuli's brother-in-law planned to take a second wife, Raisuli stormed the wedding party and hacked the bride and her mother to death. Shortly after the film's events, Raisuli became the Governor of Tangier and was soon removed from office by the Sultan due to allegations of corruption and imprisoning and torturing his personal enemies. Thus, depicting him as a virtuous fighter for the autonomy of his people is a bit of a stretch. However, he was reportedly well-read, religiously devout and very polite to his ransomable captives.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Used a few times. Most obvious is the night escape, in which blue skies with fluffy white clouds are clearly visible in some shots.
  • Hollywood History: "Why spoil the beauty of the thing with accuracy?" The real-life Pedicaris was a man, Raisuli was simply granted his demands, and there were no Germans in Morocco. details here.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "This president, this Roosevelt—does he have no respect for human life?!"
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Raisuli picking off the desert bandits from several hundred yards away using only the iron sights on his Mauser rifle. In fairness, he does miss a few shots and has to fall back on his sword to finish off his opponents.
  • Inappropriate Hunger: The Bashaw continues to snack while his household guards are slaughtered. He knows that they have no chance of winning and that the attackers won't harm him, so he's just letting it all play out without any apparent interest in the loss of life.
  • Indy Ploy: The attempt to free the Raisuli
  • Ineffectual Death Threats: Raisuli has no intention of harming the Pedicarises
  • Insult Backfire: when the Bashaw declares to Captain Jerome (after the Marines have stormed his palace and killed off his household guard) that "you are a dangerous man, and your President Roosevelt is mad", Jerome smiles, salutes with his sword and hamtastically replies, "Yes, sir!"
  • Irony: The Sultan whines, "It's hard to be Sultan" as the camera lingers on the slaves pulling his massive golden carriage.
  • The Kids Are American: Inverted. Eden is American, but her children seem to have English accents. Perhaps they spent a lot of time around Sir Joshua?
  • Large Ham:
    • Theodore Roosevelt
    • The Raisuli (that's "Mulai Ahmed Mohammed el Raisuli the Magnificent" to you, bub!)
    • Captain Jerome, to an extent.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Raisuli and von Roerkel
  • Lonely at the Top: How Roosevelt feels sometimes, ruminating about the American spirit and the loneliness of "great men".
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Roosevelt hiding the fact that he'd gone blind in one eye as a result of boxing injuries.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Pedicaris
  • Master Swordsman: The Raisuli favors swordplay to all other fighting. He carries a massive, golden saber and defeats all comers.
  • Mexican Standoff
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening scenes where the Berbers rampage through the Pedicaris home, slaughtering their servants and friends, is punctuated by brief moments of slapstick comedy. When Mrs. Pedicaris bonks a Berber in the head with a bottle, he has a Looney Tunes-like reaction. Later, a Berber bonks a nurse in the head, causing her to stiffen up and wander away cartoonishly.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Raisuli and Pedicaris have a chaste relationship that never quite becomes overtly romantic.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: How Raisuli treats the Pedicarises and his other captives... well, some of them, anyway.
    John Hay: He kidnapped a British consul once, but they became friends and he sent him back - he spat on the blood money.
    Theodore Roosevelt: Spat on it?
    John Hay: Yes. There've been others, though — Spanish and French emissaries.
    Theodore Roosevelt: Did he send them back too?
    John Hay: Parts of them.
  • No One Gets Left Behind
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Connery makes a very light stab at a vaguely Middle Eastern accent, but his native Scottish overwhelms it.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Oh, Crap!: "Perhaps His Excellency would like to fire the Maxim gun?" It's pointed down a garden lane occupied by several servants going about their business.
  • Only Sane Man: Hay is happy to exploit the kidnapping for political gain, but balks at Roosevelt's willingness to use military force. Similarly, Gummere the American consul is equally exasperated by the intransigent Moroccans and gung-ho Marines.
  • Outdated Name: Inverted with Jennifer Pedicaris. "Jennifer" was a fad name in the 1970s, when the film was made. The name technically existed in 1904, but it was an obscure form of Guinevere back then.
  • Overly Long Name: Mulai Ahmed Mohammed el Raisuli
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Raisuli, and by extension all the Berbers.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The Raisuli is clearly the toughest fighter in his whole outfit. Roosevelt is also shown practicing boxing, archery and marksmanship, one of the many ways that the two men are the same.
  • Reclining Reigner: The Bashaw when the Marines bust into the palace.
  • The Reveal: Toward the end, the Raisuli lets slip that he already has several wives. Mrs. Pedicaris is stunned into awkward silence.
  • Royal Brat: The Sultan of Morocco
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: "Why spoil the beauty of the thing with legality?"
  • Shown Their Work: While the plot is largely an invention, the setting bears quite a lot of historical detail.
    • Brian Keith's portrayal is very faithful to Theodore Roosevelt's personality.
      • Roosevelt's birthday present, the Winchester Model 1895 chambered in .405 WCF, was his favorite big game rifle.
    • Hard-core military history buffs will also be impressed by the gorgeous Matte Shot of the Atlantic Fleet featuring the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn, the Marines' Krag-Jorgensen rifles and Colt "potato digger" machine guns, and von Rorkel's "broomhandle" Mauser automatic pistol.
    • Captain Jerome carrying of the sword at the double (at port, flat to his body, left hand guiding the blade)—correct technique usually known only to Marine officers and noncommissioned officers, the latter only after they've been through NCO School.
    • Judging from Rosita Forbes' biography of Raisuli, his penchant for archaic aphorisms is very accurate. His backstory about being betrayed and imprisoned by the Bashaw of Tangier is also true.
    • Milius's depiction of Abdelaziz's court, including bicycle polo and the servant-drawn royal carriage, closely resemble passages from Walter Harris's book Morocco That Was (1921). Harris was an English diplomat who was himself kidnapped by Raisuli in 1903. Mr. Harris gets a Shout-Out in the film; see the dialogue above at No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Mrs Pedicaris may seem like a Victorian Proper Lady...but she's also a Lady of War with two children to protect.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Raisuli and Mrs. Pedicaris, complete with pawn-point banter
  • Stiff Upper Lip: When Berber warriors attack Mrs. Pedicaris's home, her British guest calmly draws a revolver and kills six Berbers. When he clicks an empty chamber, he simply says, "Damn," and is killed by the next one.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: The Raisuli kidnaps the Pedicaris family, slaughtering their servants and friends in the process, and yet the whole family decides to risk their life rescuing him by the end. Mind you, the kids think being kidnapped by desert raiders is the best thing ever from the beginning.
    • This trope's inclusion is true to fact. The real-life male Pedicaris said, "I go so far as to say that I do not regret having been his prisoner for some time... He is not a bandit, not a murderer, but a patriot forced into acts of brigandage to save his native soil and his people from the yoke of tyranny."
  • Title Drop: in Raisuli's letter to Roosevelt
  • Train-Station Goodbye: ...albeit without a train: "I'll see you again, Missus Pedicaris . . . when we are both like golden clouds on the wind."
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: between Raisuli and Mrs. Pedicaris
  • Verbal Tic: Raisuli sprinkles his speech with old sayings and metaphorical turns of phrase; for instance, "The lion takes long strides, but the path is worn smooth by pygmy armies." Over the course of the story, Mrs. Pedicaris gradually matches Raisuli metaphor for metaphor, to the point where an exasperated Raisuli complains, "Missus Pedicaris, you speak like a Berber!"
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story
  • War Is Glorious: Raisuli and Roosevelt both agree on this point. The battle sequences are filmed for excitement. In the final battle, an American soldier whoops with enthusiasm while killing Germans.
  • Warrior Poet: Raisuli's Establishing Character Moment is him quietly reading by a fountain...while his men pillage the house behind him.
  • Worthy Opponent: One of the major themes of the film. "If you pick the road to greatness, and you'll have that choice someday, you'll come to realize that the road traveled by great men is dark and lonely, and lit only occasionally at intervals by other great men, and sometimes... they're your enemies... they're still the only true luxury you have."
    • Roosevelt and Raisuli come to think of each other this way.
    • Also, Roosevelt considers the grizzly bear to be one, which is why he insists to the taxidermist that it be displayed "in a fighting stance" and not made to "look like a hairy cow".
    • Von Rorkel puts his "broomhandle" Mauser automatic pistol away and draws his saber to fight Raisuli on his own terms. Raisuli ultimately spares him for the courtesy.


Video Example(s):


The American Grizzly Bear

Teddy Roosevelt compares the United States to a grizzly bear.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / Eagleland

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