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Back to God's Country

1919
73 min., b&w;, 35mm
Silent with English intertitles
Director David M. Hartford
Producer Ernest Shipman
Writer James Oliver Curwood Nell Shipman
Cinematographer Joseph M. WalkerDal Clawson
Editor Cyril Gardner
Music Frank Skinner
Principal Cast Wellington PlaterWheeler OakmanCharles ArlingRalph LaidlawNell Shipman
Production Company Shipman Curwood Productions Inc.Curwood-Carver Productions Inc.Canadian Photoplays Ltd.

Back to God’s Country, Canada’s most successful silent feature film, stars Nell Shipman as a plucky heroine who possesses a remarkable natural affinity with wild animals.

Dolores LeBeau (Shipman) lives with her father (Laidlaw) in the Canadian wilderness. She meets and falls in love with Peter (Oak­man), a government official and writer. Rydal (Playter), a criminal disguised as a Mountie, tries to rape Dolores and, when her father intervenes, Rydal kills him de­spite Dolores's attempts to rescue him.

Dolores and Peter get married, then travel to the Arctic on a whaling schooner. In a dark twist, the schooner's captain turns out to be Rydal, who disables Peter then tries again to violate Dolores. When the ship gets frozen in the ice, she escapes with Peter on a dogsled — pursued across the snowcovered landscape by Rydal and his partner.

Dolores and Peter are rescued when a dog befriended by Dolores attacks Rydal’s sled dogs. Rydal dies alone in an icehole. Dolores and Peter return to "God's Country" and her an­imal friends.

Back to God’s Country is a key early Canadian film, notable for its romantic naturalism, activist her­oine, scenes of Shipman interacting with a bear in its natural habitat, as well as for the first nude scenes in Canadian cinema.

The film was a Canadian and inter­national success at the box office; in fact, its 300 percent return on investment has yet to be matched by another Canadian film. Recently, interest in Back to God’s Country has been revived because of its unusually strong female lead and the significant role played by Ship­man in the film’s script and production.


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