Back to God's Country (1919 film)

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Back to God's Country
Back to God's Country.jpg
Directed byDavid Hartford
Written byNell Shipman
Produced byJames Oliver Curwood
Ernest Shipman (uncredited)
StarringNell Shipman
Charles Arling
Wheeler Oakman
Wellington A. Playter
CinematographyDal Clawson
Joseph Walker
Edited byCyril Gardner
Canadian Photoplays Ltd.
Distributed byFirst National Exhibitor's Circuit (later to become First National Pictures)
Release date
October 27, 1919
Running time
73 min
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)
Back to God's Country

Back to God's Country is a 1919 Canadian drama film directed by David Hartford. It is one of the earliest Canadian feature films. The film starred and was co-written by Canadian actress Nell Shipman. With an estimated budget of over $67,000, it was the most successful silent film in Canadian history.

The film is noteworthy as it starred Shipman and was produced by her husband, Ernest. Shipman was one of the first women to do a nude scene on screen in the movie.[1] In 1918, they created a production company, Shipman-Curwood Producing Company, to produce Back to God's Country. The film was the only film the company would produce, and was based on a short story, "Whapi, the Walrus", by James Oliver Curwood.[2]

Curwood's story was adapted to the screen by Nell herself. She changed the protagonist of the film from a great dane to the female lead, Dolores. Shipman also shaped her character into a heroine, who saves her husband. Curwood was infuriated with Shipman, but commercially the film was extremely successful, posting a 300 percent profit and grossing a million-and-a-half dollars.[3][4]


  • Nell Shipman ... Dolores LeBeau
  • Charles Arling ... 'Sealskin' Blake
  • Wheeler Oakman ... Peter Burke
  • Wellington A. Playter ... Captain Rydal (as Wellington Plater)
  • Ronald Byram ... Peter Burke (original casting) (uncredited)
  • William Colvin ... Mountie Shot by Rydal (uncredited)
  • Roy Laidlaw ... Baptiste LeBeau, Dolores' Father (uncredited)
  • Kewpie Morgan ... Bully in Bar Who Shoots Chinaman (uncredited)
  • Charles B. Murphy ... The Half-Breed (uncredited)

Preservation status[edit]

It was later screened at the 1984 Festival of Festivals as part of Front & Centre, a special retrospective program of artistically and culturally significant films from throughout the history of Canadian cinema.[5]

The film has been re-made twice by Hollywood, but the original version was believed to have been lost. However, a print of the original film was found in Europe, restored in 1985, and re-released. A copy of the film is in the Library of Congress film archive,[6] and it has been released on DVD by Milestone Films.

Back to God's Country scene

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dawn E. Monroe, On The Job: Canadian Women of Achievement Archived 2018-08-31 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^
  3. ^ Morris, Peter (1978). Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895-1939. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 95–126. ISBN 0-7735-0323-4.
  4. ^ Clandfield, David (1987). Canadian Film. Toronto: Oxford University Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 0-19-540581-1.
  5. ^ Carole Corbeil, "The stars are coming out for Toronto's film festival". The Globe and Mail, September 6, 1984.
  6. ^ Progressive Silent Film List: Back to God's Country at

External links[edit]