Storyline : The Kentuckian
It’s 1820’s. Elias “Big Eli” Wakefield (Burt Lancaster) is headed for Texas with his son “Little Eli”. He’s leaving Kentucky away from feuding families. He gets arrested and Hannah Bolen takes care of Little Eli. Two Frome men arrive to kill him. Hannah overhears them and breaks Elias out of jail. She’s also escaping bondage and joins the two Wakefields. They only escape after Elias surrender his life savings. With his money gone, Elias joins his older brother Zack Wakefield who puts him to work. He makes an enemy in Stan Bodine (Walter Matthau) and makes a friend in school teacher Susie Spann.
This is romantic melodrama at its best and full of sacrifices. It is most notable for Burt Lancaster as not only the leading man but also one of his few directing efforts. I can’t say that he shows any particular directing skills but the movie functions well. If it needs anything, it needs to show more of Elias’ mountainman skills. That would pay off as he struggles between civilization and the frontier world. This love triangle is the most endearing. There are no rotten corners in this triangle. In the end, it is a struggle within Elias. I also have to say that I have never seen a man run across water like that gun fight. All in all, this is a great little romantic thriller.
Good action and adventure peek at pioneer times
“The Kentuckian” is one of those films that made young men in the mid-20th century dream about adventure in the pioneer days. It’s every bit as good an entertainment film for the young folks of the early 21st century. If only they can pry themselves away from their hand phones.
All of the cast do a fine job in this look back at the early pioneer days when the West in the U.S. was still east of the Mississippi River. Bolstering the plot and action and adventure is some tremendous camera work and scenes in beautiful outdoor settings.
It seems that modern films have all but forgotten about the early years of the settlement and expansion of America. This is a fine film to introduce a peek at what that early history was like, with a story that no doubt replayed itself many a time in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Burt Lancaster and crew provide an entertaining look back when boys of yesterday dreamed about early adventure in the new world.