The Mountain Eagle (1926)
|Gaetano di Ventimiglia|
|black & white|
|silent with English intertitles|
|Gainsborough Pictures & Emelka|
|Wardour Films (UK)|
After spurning his advances, local JP Pettigrew accuses schoolteacher Beatrice Brent of being a wanton woman and she is forced to flee the village into the mountains. There she meets the hermit John "Fear O'God" Fulton, who she marries. Pettigrew takes advantage of the fact his young son Edward has recently left the village to accuse the hermit of murdering the boy, and Fulton is arrested an imprisoned. After a year in jail, Fulton escapes and returns to his remote cabin to find Beatrice has given birth to their child. When the baby falls ill, Fulton battles through the snow to seek help in the village, but runs into Pettigrew. The sudden return of Edward forces Pettigrew to drop his accusation of murder against Fulton.
Charles Lapworth, Gainsborough's editorial director, had developed an original story titled Fear o' God, which was announced in the trade press in October 1925 as the second joint Gainsborough-Emelka production. By the time the film went into production, the title had been changed to The Mountain Eagle.
Eliot Stannard started developing the scenario from Lapworth's story during the autumn of 1925 and it was completed shortly after Hitchcock arrived in Germany to begin filming. The most in-depth descriptions of the synopsis of the film appeared in The Bioscope and the Kinematograph Weekly:
Beatrice Brent, school teacher in a small mountain village, incurs the enmity of Pettigrew, the local Justice of the Peace and owner of the village stores, because he believes that she encourages the attentions of his son Edward, a cripple, who takes evening lessons. Pettigrew, while questioning Beatrice, is himself influenced by her charm and attempts liberties which she strongly resents. He is so furious at the rebuff that he proclaims her as a wanton and she is driven from the village by the inhabitants. Beatrice is saved from their fury by a mysterious stranger known as Fearogod, who lives a solitary life in a cabin to which he takes her for shelter. To stop all scandal, Fearogod takes Beatrice down to the village and compels Pettigrew to marry them, explaining to her that he will help her to get a divorce. Beatrice, however, is content to leave the situation as it is, but Pettigrew, furious with rage, takes advantage of the fact that his son has left the village and arrests Fearogod for his murder. In spite of the fact that there is no vestige of evidence that young Pettigrew has been murdered, Fearogod is kept in prison for over a year, when he decides to escape. He finds that his wife has a baby and he goes off with them to the mountains. When they find that the baby is taken ill, Fearogod goes back to the village for a doctor, where he sees old Pettigrew. Some doubt as to which of the men is going to attack the other first is settled by an onlooker firing off a gun which wounds Pettigrew in the shoulder. The sudden return of his son Edward convinces the old man of the futility of proceeding with his accusation of murder, so he makes the best of matters by shaking hands with the man he has persecuted and all is supposed to end happily.
— The Bioscope (07/Oct/1926)
Pettigrew, J.P. of a small mountain village, hates John Fulton, a lonely dweller in the mountains, known as Fearogod to the inhabitants, as much as he loves his son Edward, who was born a cripple as his mother, whom Fulton has also loved, died. Pettigrew sees his son apparently making love to Beatrice Talbot, the village schoolmistress, and, going to reprove her, he tries to take her in his arms. The son sees this, and leaves the village. Pettigrew determines to have Beatrice thrown out, but Fearogod intervenes, and takes her to his cabin. Pettigrew here sees the chance to arrest Fearogod for abduction and Beatrice as a wanton, but Fearogod forestalls him by coming and demanding that Pettigrew marry them. The pair then fall in love, but Pettigrew has Fearogod arrested and thrown into prison on a charge of murdering his son, who has not returned. Fearogod breaks out of prison after a year, and attempts to fly with his wife and child, but the latter falls sick, and Fearogod returns to the village for a doctor. There he finds Edward has returned, and his affairs cleared up. Pettigrew is accidentally shot.
— Kinematograph Weekly (07/Oct/1926)
More recently, the following synopsis was found in a preview printed in a Gloucester newspaper in August 1927, which adds a few extra details to the plot:
The principal picture to be seen at the Palladium throughout the present week is "The Mountain Eagle" a story of love and hatred amongst mountain folk. There is a feud over a woman between one Fulton and Pettigrew. The latter as the local justice in a small village naturally has considerable power. His cripple son Edward falls in love with Beatrice Brent, the school teacher appointed by his father and gossip is ripe. The narrative unwinds, as it were, from this incident. Beatrice has to seek refuge with Fulton who arranges a marriage to still the tongues, and Edward having fled, suspicion of having caused his death falls on Fulton. There are some striking snow scenes and fine mountain scenery and many exciting moments, such as where Fulton levels his rifle to shoot Pettigrew and the latter faints and falls before a shot can reach him — instances in which the suspense is very ably contrived. The pursuit of Fulton across the snow plains is done with decision and force.
— Gloucester Citizen (23/Aug/1927)
The international cast included British actor Malcolm Keen, American "vamp" actress Nita Naldi, here cast against-type as the schoolteacher, and German actor Bernhard Goetzke who Hitchcock had befriended during the filming of Die Prinzessin und der Geiger.
According to several American newspapers, the dog featured in the film was called "Major".
Filming seems to have taken place during the months of October and November 1925, initially on location in the Austrian Tyrol mountains and then at the Emelka studios near Munich.
Although Hitchcock mentions Kentucky as the setting in the original script, whilst exhaustively researching the film, scholar J.L. Kuhns found no evidence to support the claim that the film itself was supposed to have been set in America.
With the production phase finished, Hitchcock returned to London and completed editing the film by the end of 1925.
Release & Reception
According to J.L. Kuhns' authoritative essay on the film, published in the Hitchcock Annual (1998), the film was screened in Berlin in May 1926, then shown to the British press in October 1926 before being scheduled for public release in May 1927. Kuhns notes that it's likely the film was shown at a number of trade shows outside of London during October 1926, but only one print of the film would have been required. At least 3 prints of the film must have been made: one for the English trade shows, one for the German market and another for the US, where it was listed as being available from November 1926.
The film received a limited distribution in the UK, especially when compared to the screenings of The Pleasure Garden, and film historian Jenny Hammerton has speculated that the distributor Wardour Films may have abandoned a widespread release in favour of releasing Downhill — this would help explain the lack of any known surviving prints.
In October 1926, The Kinematograph had summarised the film as "rather wandering and not too convincing story, which is redeemed by good, if somewhat slow, direction and excellent acting", complaining that the "continuity is jerky". However, the reviewer felt the "photography is excellent".
In February 1927, the Bakersfield Californian previewed the film prior to it being shown in the town:
The latest picture to star Nita Naldi is "The Mountain Eagle." It's one of the best this popular star has ever appeared in. Primitive passion's play a strong part in the lawless country where the mountains rear their majestic peaks and the eternal snows menace the unwary and where the bullet is a law unto itself. Miss Naldi is cast as a primitive mountain lass and her work is all that could be desired. There are more than the usual number of thrills even for a Naldi picture and the picture, in addition, offers some scenic gems.
The following screening dates appeared in British local newspapers:
- 06-08/Jun/1927 — Beau Nash Picture House, Westgate Street (Bath, Somerset)
- 06-08/Jun/1927 — Tower Picture House (Leeds, Yorkshire)
- 23-25/Jun/1927 — The Whitehall Theatre (East Grinstead, Surrey)
- 24/Jun/1927 — Theatre De Luxe, Kirkgate (Leeds, Yorkshire)
- 30/Jun/1927-02/Jul/1927 — Kosmos Kinema (Tunbridge Wells, Kent)
- w/c 11/Jul/1927 — Regent Hall, Mansfield Road (Nottingham)
- 15-17/Aug/1927 — Exchange Hall Cinema (Grantham, Lincolnshire)
- 22-27/Aug/1927 — The Palladium (Gloucester)
- 29/Aug/1927 — Empire Picture Palace (Tonbridge, Kent)
- 22-24/Sep/1927 — Lichfield Palladium (Lichfield, Staffordshire)
- 29/Sep/1927-01/Oct/1927 — The Oxford Cinema (Oxford)
- 03-05/Oct/1927 — The Palladium (Plymouth)
- 21-23/Nov/1927 — City Palace, Fore Street (Exeter)
- 28-30/Nov/1927 — Belgrave Cinema (Mutley, Plymouth)
- 29-31/Dec/1927 — Oakham Picture Theatre (Oakham, Rutland, East Midlands)
From U.S. local newspapers, some dates that The Mountain Eagle was screened are known:
- 05/Feb/1927 — The Nile (Bakersfield, California)
- 25-26/Feb/1927 — The Capitol (Lowell, Massachusetts)
- 13/Mar/1927 — The Orpheum (Munster, Indiana)
- 13/Oct/1927 — The Orphium (Xenia, Ohio)
- 28/Nov/1927 — Park City (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
- 16/Jan/1928 — The Deandi Theater (Amarillo, Texas)
- 02-03/Feb/1928 — The Rex Theater (Ardmore, Oklahoma)
- 06/Jul/1928 — The Anderson (Hattiesburg, Mississippi)
- 09/Dec/1929 — The Kozy Theater (Ludington, Michigan)
One U.S. newspaper advert states that Nita Naldi's character was named "Gladys Martin" in the film, implying that the American print had different character names.
A number of publicity stills survive from the production phase of The Mountain Eagle. During his research on the film, J.L. Kuhns identified 43 separate images in various collections and archives, some of which appear to be enlargements of film frames. Since Kuhns carried out his research, a further photograph has emerged of Hitchcock, Alma Reville and Malcolm Keen, which was almost certainly taken during location filming.
No known prints of the The Mountain Eagle have survived and the film is currently listed on the BFI's Most Wanted list.
For further relevant information about this film, see also...
- articles about The Mountain Eagle (1926)
- complete cast and crew
- filming locations
- web links to information, articles, reviews, etc
Cast and Crew
- Nita Naldi - Beatrice
- Malcolm Keen - John "Fear o' God" Fulton
- John F Hamilton - Edward Pettigrew
- Bernhard Goetzke - Mr Pettigrew
- Ferdinand Martini
Art Direction by:
- Hitchcock Annual (1998) - Hitchcock's "The Mountain Eagle". According to Kuhns' research, claims that the film was released in America as Fear o' God are completely unfounded.
- Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2003) by Patrick McGilligan, 71
- See, for example, Bakersfield Californian (05/Feb/1927) - Nita Naldi Tonight for Last Times
- Hitchcock Annual (1998) - Hitchcock's "The Mountain Eagle". Kuhns notes that Peter Noble appears to have made the assumption about Kentucky, possibly based on Hitchcock comments about the script, and that Noble's assumption "has dogged this film since its early citations in the literature".
- See US publications The Film Year Book 1927 and Motion Picture News (Apr/1927). The latter lists the film as 6,000ft and distributed by Lee-Bradford.
- BFI most-wanted: The Mountain Eagle
- Naldi's career was in decline at the time and Wardour Films would perhaps likely feel that an Ivor Novello film would be a more lucrative bet for the British market. The dates of the UK screenings only overlap in June, so at least two prints must have circulated.
- Kinematograph Weekly (1926) - The Mountain Eagle
- Bakersfield Californian (01/Feb/1927) - Nita Naldi Appears in Mountain Film
- The Bioscope (1926) - The Mountain Eagle
- Hitchcock (1967) by François Truffaut, page 39
- Reported in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette (04/Jun/1927).
- Reported in Yorkshire Evening Post (04/Jun/1927).
- Reported in the Surrey Mirror and Country Post (17/Jun/1927).
- Reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post (24/Jun/1927).
- Reported in the Kent and Sussex Courier (24/Jun/1927).
- Reported in the Nottingham Evening Post (11/Jul/1927).
- Reported in the Grantham Journal (13/Aug/1927) - The Mountain Eagle (advert).
- Reported in the Gloucester Citizen (23/Aug/1927).
- Likely 29-31/Aug/1927. Reported in the Kent and Sussex Courier (26/Aug/1927).
- Reported in the Lichfield Mercury (16/Sep/1927).
- Reported in the Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press (24/Sep/1927).
- Reported in the Western Morning News (01/Oct/1927).
- Reported in the Devon and Exeter Daily Gazette (21/Nov/1927) & Exeter and Plymouth Gazette (14/Nov/1927).
- Reported in the Western Morning News (30/Sep/1927).
- Reported in the Grantham Journal (24/Dec/1927).The Oakham Picture Theatre was known locally as the "Tin Tabernacle" and was apparently constructed from corrugated iron.
- Reported and previewed in the Bakersfield Morning Echo (05/Feb/1927).
- Reported in the Lowell Sun (25/Feb/1927).
- Reported in the Hammond Times (12/Mar/1927).
- Reported in the Xenia Evening Gazette (13/Oct/1927).
- Reported in Bridgeport Telegram (28/Nov/1927).
- Reported in the Amarillo Sunday News Globe (15/Jan/1928).
- Reported in the Ardmore Daily Ardmoreite (03/Feb/1928). Although the advert could imply the screenings were talking place the following week (9th & 10th), a brief mention on page 5 of the newspaper confirms a screening took place on the 3rd.
- Reported in the Hattiesburg American (06/Jul/1928).
- As reported in Ludington Daily News (08/Dec/1929) and Ludington Daily News (09/Dec/1929).
- See Ludington Daily News (08/Dec/1929).
- Hitchcock Annual (1998) - Hitchcock's "The Mountain Eagle"
|Hitchcock's Major Films|
|1920s||The Pleasure Garden · The Mountain Eagle · The Lodger · Downhill · Easy Virtue · The Ring · The Farmer's Wife · Champagne · The Manxman · Blackmail|
|1930s||Juno and the Paycock · Murder! · The Skin Game · Rich and Strange · Number Seventeen · Waltzes from Vienna · The Man Who Knew Too Much · The 39 Steps · Secret Agent · Sabotage · Young and Innocent · The Lady Vanishes · Jamaica Inn|
|1940s||Rebecca · Foreign Correspondent · Mr and Mrs Smith · Suspicion · Saboteur · Shadow of a Doubt · Lifeboat · Spellbound · Notorious · The Paradine Case · Rope · Under Capricorn|
|1950s||Stage Fright · Strangers on a Train · I Confess · Dial M for Murder · Rear Window · To Catch a Thief · The Trouble with Harry · The Man Who Knew Too Much · The Wrong Man · Vertigo · North by Northwest|
|1960s||Psycho · The Birds · Marnie · Torn Curtain · Topaz|
|1970s||Frenzy · Family Plot|
|( view full filmography )|