It’s amazing that a book that I absolutely HATED in high school (sorry, James Fenimore Cooper) would result in a movie I can literally watch over and over again. While Cooper is not going to win any RITA award for his romance between Hawkeye and Cora Munro (and the much less elaborated upon love between young Uncas and Cora’s sister, Alice), the 1992 movie adaptation (which owed its plotline and deviations from the novel to the fact that it is based more on the 1936 movie than Cooper’s original work), directed by Michael Mann, was deemed instantly swoon-worthy by people all over the globe who were drawn to Daniel Day Lewis‘ depiction of this literary character.
Cooper spent numerous (and I mean numerous) pages elaborating upon what would become known in American literature as the “noble savage” ideal, a concept rather nauseating in today’s day and age, but was publishing gold back in his day. Another interesting twist is Cooper’s understanding of how and why his couples work or don’t work. Hawkeye, a white man raised as a Mohican and known by the moniker the various Indian tribes of the area have given him rather than his given white name, Nathaniel Bumppo, would have been deemed unacceptable and ruined for polite society, but he is an ideal match for Cora Munro, who is the daughter of Colonel Munro and a mixed race woman from the West Indies who Munro married. Also suitable for her would be Uncas and she actually dies with him in the book during the final fight of the novel, with his father inferring at the funeral that she was his chosen bride in eternity. Because of Cora’s heritage, her chances of a good marriage are actually severely limited (despite her suitor in the form of Duncan Heyward in the movie, in the book he pursues Alice) so the love match between her and Hawkeye is ideal on all levels, particularly as a match to her adventurous personality. Keep in mind that if you do decide to read the book, you can usually get it for free since it’s in the public domain.
I guess we should all thank Cooper for giving us a “meh” book that has somehow managed to be such an excellent inspiration for some tremendous love stories. One of the most outstanding spinoffs has to be Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati. In this epic, Elizabeth Middleton. a 29-year-old spinster, travels from England to upstate New York in 1792. Her domineering father plans on pressuring her to marry the local physician, but she finds herself drawn to Nathaniel Bonner, son of (wait for it) Hawkeye. [I don’t know if she did this for copyright reasons, but she renames Hawkeye “Daniel Bonner” and then gives the name Nathaniel to his son, but its still the same family.] Nathaniel considers his ties to the Mahican nation strong – Chingachgook is his grandfather and his dead wife was a Mahican woman, but there is tremendous tension between the Bonner family and Elizabeth’s father.
Part of her inheritance is a parcel of land the Mahicans want to repurchase because of a long-standing claim on it, but physician Richard wants Elizabeth for the power he would gain owning that piece of the wilderness. That Nathaniel and Elizabeth fall in love is just another complication but one that shakes them both to their foundations. This is the best book of the series, but the other books in the series include (in order) Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire Along the Sky, Queen of Swords, and the final book in the series, The Endless Forest, which takes the reader up to 1824 with this family that never seems to catch a break with all the trouble they encounter. You must, must, MUST read them in order, because one of Donati strengths is painting rich, multidimensional characters and there are a lot of them that ebb and flow in prominence in the various novels.
Back to today’s video Wednesday clip. I think the reason this kiss scene works so well is due to the shadow but largely due to the acting of Madeleine Stowe (and I bet there were a LOT of women who would have been happy to take her place here). Her look of passion and tenderness as she and Hawkeye finally give into the need to touch each other as well as her ragged breathing ramp this sensual moment from smoldering to scorching. The video is a little dark, but you’ll be able to see all the good parts, I promise. Enjoy!