The Wind and the Lion

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The Wind and the Lion
Wind and the lion movie poster.jpg
promotional poster for The Wind and the Lion
Directed by John Milius
Produced by Herb Jaffe
Phil Rawlins (associate)
Written by John Milius
Starring Sean Connery
Candice Bergen
Brian Keith
John Huston
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Billy Williams
Edited by Robert L. Wolfe
Production
company
Herb Jaffe Productions
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
(Through United Artists)
(USA & Canada)
Columbia Pictures
(International)
Release dates
  • May 22, 1975 (1975-05-22) (New York City)
Running time 119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.6 million[1]

The Wind and the Lion is a 1975 adventure film written and directed by John Milius. It starred Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith and John Huston. It was based somewhat on the real-life Perdicaris incident of 1904.

This movie blends historic facts into a violent fictional adventure in which an American woman, Eden Perdicaris (played by Bergen), and her two children are kidnapped by Berber brigand Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Connery), prompting U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (Keith) to send an armed invasion and rescue mission to Morocco. (The real Perdicaris incident involved the kidnapping of a middle-aged man and his stepson, who were not harmed.)

The film was produced by Herb Jaffe through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which at the time had U.S. distribution through United Artists) and Columbia Pictures (which handled international distribution).

Plot[edit]

During 1904, Morocco is the source of conflict by the powers of Imperial Germany, France, and the British Empire, all of whom are trying to establish a sphere of influence in that country. Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli is the commander of a band of Berber insurrectionists opposed to the young Sultan Abdelaziz and his uncle, the Bashaw (Pasha) of Tangier, whom Raisuli considers as corrupt and beholden to the Europeans. He kidnaps Eden Pedecaris and her children, William and Jennifer, in a raid on their home, during which Sir Joshua Smith, a British friend of Eden's, was killed. Raisuli then issues an outrageous ransom demand, deliberately attempting to provoke an international incident in order to embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt is seeking election to a full term. He decides to use the kidnapping as both political propaganda (coining the phrase "Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead!") and as an effort to demonstrate America's military strength as a new power—despite the protests of his cautious Secretary of State, John Hay.

The American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, is unable to negotiate a peaceful return of the hostages, so Roosevelt sends the South Atlantic Squadron, under the command of Admiral French Ensor Chadwick, to Tangier, either to retrieve Pedecaris themselves or to force the Sultan to accede to Raisuli's demands. During the story, however, Roosevelt finds himself gaining more and more respect for Raisuli, thinking him an honorable man who just happens to be his enemy.

The Pedecarises are kept as hostages by the Raisuli in the Rif, far from any potential rescuers. Though her children seem to admire Raisuli, Eden finds him "a brigand and a lout." The Pedecarises attempt an escape, helped by one of Raisuli's men, but they are betrayed and given to a gang of desert thieves. Luckily, Raisuli has tracked them and kills the kidnappers with rifle and sword. He reveals that he does not have any intention of harming the Pedecarises and is merely bluffing. Eden and Raisuli become enamored of each other as Raisuli reveals his story — that he was once taken captive by his brother, the Bashaw, and kept in a dungeon for several years.

Gummere, Chadwick and his aide, Marine Captain Jerome, tire of the Sultan's perfidy and the meddling of the European powers and decide to engage in "military intervention" to force a negotiation by seizing the actual seat of power, the Bashaw's palace in Tangier. Jerome's company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, march through the streets of Tangier, much to the surprise of the European legations, whose forces are with the Sultan at distant Fez, and overwhelm the Bashaw's palace guard, taking the Bashaw hostage and forcing him to negotiate.

By such coercion, the Bashaw finally agrees to accede to the Raisuli's demands. But during a hostage exchange, Raisuli is betrayed and captured by German and Moroccan troops under the command of Von Roerkel, while Jerome and a small contingent of Marines are present to secure the Pedecarises. While Raisuli's friend, the Sherif of Wazan, organizes the Berber tribe for an attack on the Europeans and Moroccans, Eden attacks Jerome and convinces him and his men to rescue the Raisuli to uphold the word of President Roosevelt that he would be unharmed if the Pedecarises were returned safely.

A three-way battle results, in which the Berbers and Americans team to defeat the Germans and their Moroccan allies, rescuing Raisuli in the process. In the United States, Roosevelt is cheered for this great victory, and the Pedecarises arrive safely back in Tangier. Roosevelt reads a letter he received from Raisuli, comparing the two men (thus explaining the title): "I (Raisuli), like the lion, must stay in my place, while you, like the wind, will never know yours."

Cast List[edit]

Inspiration/Sources[edit]

Milius stated both in interviews and the DVD commentary that he was consciously echoing a number of classic adventure films and stories. He cites the famous British periodical Boy's Own, as well as the stories of Rudyard Kipling, as inspirations for the film. Milius' inspiration had come from reading an article by Barbara W. Tuchman about the Perdicaris incident in American Heritage magazine,[2] and he found the story fascinating; he decided to adapt it into a screenplay once he figured how to make the story more cinematic — by making Ion Perdicaris a woman, Eden Pedecaris.

Milius also researched Rosita Forbes's 1924 biography of Raisuli, The Sultan of the Mountains; much of the film's dialogue is appropriated almost word-for-word from Forbes's book. Walter Harris's 1921 book Morocco That Was inspired the depiction of Sultan Abdelaziz's court.[3] Milius took similar care in researching the scenes with Theodore Roosevelt.

In terms of film, 1930s adventure films such as Gunga Din and The Four Feathers provided inspiration for the film's style and storytelling technique. The use of children as protagonists is also inspired by the book and the film A High Wind in Jamaica, while the relationship between Raisuli and Eden is based on the 1921 film The Sheik. Raisuli's rescue of the Perdicarises on the beach is similar to another mounted sword-fighting scene in Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film The Hidden Fortress, and the scene of Jennifer Perdicaris being cornered by Aldo Sambrell's character and kidnapped is a reference to the 1956 film The Searchers.

Perhaps most noticeably, the film inherits the cavalier attitudes towards imperialism, foreign policy and military intervention present in those films — attitudes which were relatively unpopular in 1975 America, at the end of the Vietnam War. Perhaps surprisingly, Milius' apparent endorsement of imperialism and warfare was not attacked by critics, perhaps due to the film's supposedly satiric manner.

However, Milius also had inspiration from more recent films while making the movie. He based the film's cinematography, use of desert landscapes, and filming of battle scenes on David Lean's 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, also using many of the same sets, including the "Aqaba" set which had been constructed for Lean's film, here serving as the setting for the final, three-way battle between the Berbers, the Europeans and their Moroccan allies, and the Americans. The Bashaw's palace was the Palace of the Americas in Seville, having appeared in both Lawrence of Arabia and Anthony Mann's 1961 film El Cid. Another major influence is the 1969 film The Wild Bunch, which inspired the final confrontation between the American and German troops and the earlier scene where the Sultan test-fires his Maxim gun.

Production[edit]

Milius originally wanted Omar Sharif to play Raisuli, and Faye Dunaway as Eden Perdicaris,[4] but Sharif refused the part and Dunaway became ill, having to be replaced at short notice by Bergen. Anthony Quinn was also considered for Raisuli. Milius said he wrote the part of Eden with Julie Christie in mind, although she may not have actually been approached for the role.

Milius wanted Orson Welles to play "Charles Foster Kane" (the name of his character in Citizen Kane) in the film but the studio would not let him as they were worried about being sued by RKO. Instead he used the character of William Randolph Hearst.[5]

Filming was done in Spain, with the towns of Seville, Almeria, and Madrid all doubling for Tangier and Fez, and the "Washington" scenes being filmed in and around Madrid. For the deserts of Morocco, Milius used many locations in the Almeria region, some of which had been previously used in historical epics such as Lawrence of Arabia and El Cid, as well as several Spaghetti Westerns, though he claims to have discovered the beach where Raisuli rescues the Perdicaris family after their escape. The scene at Yellowstone National Park (where Roosevelt gives his famous grizzly bear speech) was filmed in the Meseta Central, north of Madrid. These latter two locations would each re-appear in Milius' 1982 film Conan the Barbarian. The U.S. Marines and sailors used in the Tangier attack scene were Spanish special forces troops, along with a handful of U.S. Marine Corps advisers, who marched with precision through the streets of Seville and Almeria en route to the Bashaw's palace. According to Milius (on the DVD commentary), the U.S. Marine Corps actually shows this scene to its advanced infantry classes for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy.

According to Milius, virtually all of the film's stunts were performed by Terry Leonard. Terry Leonard was the stunt coordinator and did some of the stunts - who also has a minor part as Roosevelt's boxing opponent early in the film. Milius claims that only four American stunt men were used in the entire final battle scene - the number of Spanish stunt men were close to twenty throughout the filming. He and Leonard have defended the film against criticism for alleged "animal cruelty", claiming that not a single horse was seriously hurt during filming. While filming this scene, Antoine Saint-John revealed himself to be terrified of horses, and would often hide somewhere on the set when his sword fight with Sean Connery was to be filmed.

Several of the film's crew are cast in the movie, most notably the cinematographer, Billy Williams (perhaps best known for Ken Russell's 1969 film Women in Love), plays the gun-shooting, white-suited Englishman Sir Joshua Smith in the opening scenes of the attack at the Pedecaris villa. The special effects supervisor Alex Weldon appears as Roosevelt's Secretary of War, Elihu Root, and Milius himself cameos as the one-armed German officer who gives the Sultan his Maxim gun to test-fire ("Herr Sultan is displeased?").

Milius later said he did not particularly enjoy working with Candice Bergen or Sean Connery, particularly Connery because he was so "sour and dour". However, he greatly admired Connery's performance whereas he felt Bergen's range was extremely limited and she was only concerned with looking good.[1]

Reception[edit]

The Wind and the Lion debuted in New York during May 1975 and Britain in October. It received considerable industry recognition, including Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing. Jerry Goldsmith's score was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. Additionally, the Writers Guild of America nominated Milius' screenplay. The film was also a financial success, though Steven Spielberg's film Jaws distracted attention from it.

Shortly after its release, the film was screened for U.S. President Gerald Ford and his staff, who reportedly loved it.[6]

The film has also gained considerable recognition in the Islamic world for its accurate, detailed, and sympathetic depiction of Berber and Islamic culture.

Milius' next projects were uncredited dialogue in Jaws (also in 1975) and direction of Big Wednesday, a surfing film released during 1978.

A novelization of the film by Milius was published by Award Books in January 1975. Based on the screenplay, the story is slightly different from the finished film, with several additional scenes (notably, Eden Perdicaris taking a bath at Raisuli's palace and Gummere watching the Atlantic Squadron arrive in Tangier) included, and the story's chronology slightly different. The first printing included a chapter about production events and brief biographies of most of the cast and crew.

Soundtrack[edit]

The score to The Wind and the Lion was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. True to the style of such Golden Age scores as Maurice Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia, Goldsmith used a diverse ensemble that relied heavily upon a large percussion section and a variety of Moroccan instrumentation.[7] The music went on to garner Goldsmith an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score though he lost to fellow composer John Williams for Jaws. It is often regarded as one of the best scores of his career and was one of the American Film Institute's 250 nominees for the top 25 American film scores.[8]

Awards[edit]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; Jerry Goldsmith for Best Original Score and Harry W. Tetrick, Aaron Rochin, William McCaughey, Roy Charman for Best Sound Mixing.[9]

DVD releases[edit]

In Region 1, Warner Home Video released the film on DVD on January 6, 2004, featuring a brief production featurette, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary by Milius. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a bare-bones DVD in Australia (R4) and in several European markets (Region 2), notably Germany,[10] though not yet in the United Kingdom (the Sony release is English-friendly though).

Blu-Ray releases[edit]

A Blu-ray edition of the film from the Warner Archive Collection was released on April 29, 2014.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ken Plume, "Interview with John Milius", IGN, 7 May 2003 accessed 5 January 2013
  2. ^ "Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead!", American Heritage August 1959; later republished in Tuchman's compilation book Practicing History: Selected Essays (1981), pp. 104-117
  3. ^ cf. Harris, pp. 81-83
  4. ^ A 'Lollipop' for Valentine, Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Aug 1974: f13.
  5. ^ Segaloff, Nat, "John Milius: The Good Fights", Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, Ed. [[Patrick McGilligan (biographer)|]], Uni of California 2006 p 291-292
  6. ^ 'Wind and the Lion'--a look behind MGM epic: Comments from its 'superstars' and its writer-director Deliberate distortion? False image? By David Sterritt. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 28 July 1975: 26.
  7. ^ The Wind and the Lion soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com
  8. ^ AFI's 100 Years Of Film Scores at AFI.com
  9. ^ "The 48th Academy Awards (1976) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  10. ^ Official entry of the German edition, listing the various soundtracks and subtitles the DVD comes with

External links[edit]