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THE HALF-BREED Blu-ray Review



1916
Directed by: Allan Dawn
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Alma Rubens, Sam De Grasse, Jewel Carmen

THE HALF-BREED starts with a short encapsulation of Lo's early life, his Indian mother discovers that her white lover has crossed her and she commits suicide, abandoning her child with a white townsman who in turn becomes the only father he knows. Unwelcome in the nearby community when his father passes on, Lo picks a redwood tree and sets up house in its trunk. He keeps up his connections with the town, but animosity towards him ratchets up when he becomes romantically involved with Nellie (Jewel Carmen), an evangelist's girl, inspiring envy in the racist Sheriff Dunn (Sam De Grasse), who's been pursuing her.

When Teresa (Alma Rubens) assaults her adulterous lover and the sheriff with a blade she flees to the forest and moves in with Lo. Nellie visits the woods to reconnect with Lo, yet comes back to town after deciding she can't settle down with a half-breed. The sheriff follows Teresa to the redwood and uncovers evidence that shows he is Lo's absentee father.

I can't imagine how this film played in 1916. as it has a racial message that is still salient 100 years later. In a time when BIRTH OF A NATION was an enormous hit, a film that postulated the righteousness of KKK, how did audiences react to THE HALF-BREED?  A film centered on a mixed-race character who was not played as farce or vaudevillian, but rather a deeply sympathetic character who is the victim of racism, not the justification for it.

Adapted by Anita Loos from Bret Harte's novella In the Carquinez Woods, first published in 1882, THE HALF-BREED was an attempt at showing a more dramatic side to Douglas Fairbanks. He was one of the studio systems first major stars and churned out up to 12 movies a year.

Special Features
:

  • THE GOOD BAD MAN (1916), starring Douglas Fairbanks and directed by Allan Dwan (50 minutes) 
  • Amazing Tales from the Archives: Restoring The Half-Breed (1916) 
  • Audio commentaries for THE HALF-BREED and THE GOOD BAD MAN by Tracey Goessel and Robert Byrne 
  • Music for THE HALF-BREED and THE GOOD BAD MAN composed and performed by Donald Sosin
  • Photo Gallery

THE HALF-BREED can be purchased from the Kino Lorber store here.
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