Man of the Forest | Sunday Observer
Retro reviews: Cinema of yesteryear

Man of the Forest

14 February, 2021

An American film released in 1933, ‘Man of the Forest’ is a movie directed by Henry Hathaway and is based on a novel by Zane Grey. Starring screen legend Randolph Scott in the lead heroic role, this movie looks at the rough and challenging nature of the American frontier that pioneers had to deal with in the great expansion of agriculture and industry across the vast wilderness of North America.

It is a story of frontiersmen whose challenges include the clash of interests of those who want to expand their wealth and power with no regard for law and order against those who believe in the need for moral uprightness and decency. There is a vein of the ‘Wild West’ engrained in the characters and the storyline of this movie although the setting is not a dusty Texan town surrounded by an inhospitable cacti speckled desert.


Randolph plays frontiersman Brett Dale who uncovers a plot by unscrupulous ranch owner Clint Beasley to abduct the niece of Dale’s friend, ranch ownerJim Gaynor with whom Beasley has been developing cold hostilities over property and waterway interests. Ageing Jim wants his niece Alice to be the heir in title to his property and Beasley engineers a plot with the help of hired guns that will ensure his expansion to go uninhibited.

Dale intervenes on his own accord and intercepts the carriage in which Alice rides to her uncle’s ranch and forcibly takes Alice away before the men Beasley hired can abduct her. A humorous situation develops between Dale, Alice Gaynor and Dale’s pet mountain lion ‘Mike’, up at Dale’s cabin in the mountains as the ‘captive’ city girl struggles to believe Dale’s story of having kidnapped her to save her from the real aggressors and thereby spends the night at the log cabin which has not many modern comforts.

Soon what ensues is Beasley’s greed and unscrupulousness results in the murder of Jim Gaynor before the night is through and the framing of Dale as the murderer. With the town’s Sheriff in cahoots with Beasley for gains following the plan Beasley has to gain control over Jim Gaynor’s ranch, a scheme of corruption and menace begins to take shape.

However, the plan is not meant to be seen through to its nefarious end by having Dale hanged for the murder of Jim Gaynor as a rescue mission is mounted to free Dale by Gaynor’s ranchmen that see through the elaborate web spun by Beasley.

Thrilling end

The end is thrilling and in the style of a true classic ‘western’ brings on a ‘war’ in the small town, fought with guns and fits, as Beasley and his men clash with Dale and Jim Gaynor’s ranchmen.

‘Man of the Forest’ is a good retro movie of how men seeking their fortunes by challenging the frontier pave the way for friction to erupt between factions that battle between personal greed and the principle of upholding what is right over wrong.