Re: The Character of Duncan

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Posted by Gayle on July 31, 1999 at 15:47:37:

In Reply to: Re: The Character of Duncan posted by Rich on July 31, 1999 at 03:22:12:

: : Well said, Kate, and my sentiments, exactly. I've always had a soft spot for poor ol' Duncan, and Steven Waddington's portrayal of him is just spot-on, as you folks from over the Pond say!

: And lest we forget, Mann based his characterization of Duncan on COOPER himself. PRETTY interesting!


Thanks for the link -

Michael Mann wrote: . . . "I based [Major] Heyward on Cooper himself, not on Cooper's character. Cooper believed in static hierarchies, a kind of political harmony of the spheres: If people and classes stay in place, there's a harmony; if they don't, there are problems. In Cooper, Hawkeye is constantly apologizing or reassuring total strangers that he's not of mixed blood!: 'Hi, I'm Hawkeye, how are you? I'm not of mixed blood.' So the whole notion of races crossing, of miscegenation, of people moving into different classes, was anathema to Cooper. I decided to take all these characteristics and stick them into Heyward. If you read the novel very carefully, the daughter, Cora, who falls in love with Uncas and dies, is a mulatto. Her father, Colonel Munro, wanted Heyward to marry Cora but Hayward preferred Alice; Munro was initially insulted and went into a two-page diatribe about the fact that her mother was an aristocratic woman. I switched it around so that it's Cora and Hawkeye who fall in love."

I went back and read Mann's comments again, and of course, had completly forgotten his approach since the last time I read the interview. I wonder why he bothered to go the extra step of basing Duncan on Cooper- it seems to me that Duncan (in the book) exemplified all the characteristics Mann was dealing with without Cooper having to enter into it at all. Nonetheless, Mann did a fine job of rounding out a whole character for Duncan that Cooper was either unable to do or uninterested in doing. And Steven Waddington vastly improved the person, since Duncan in the book was, I thought, seriously insipid Yes, I like Mann's Duncan very much, and wish he had not come to such a dire end. In the movie, he would have deserved Cora if he could have won her. In the book, he definitely deserved Alice, and I think it's so funny that in The Prairie, Cooper makes it clear that the marriage of Duncan and Alice turned out exactly as one would have expected. Cooper had a sense of humor that is little appreciated.

Another interesting parallel between Mann and Cooper - although Mann insists he wasn't an appreciator of Cooper - he tends to handle outcomes very much like Cooper did. Cooper almost always killed off his most admirable characters and Mann certainly supported that approach to rewards for goodness and valor!

Although my feelings about the various characters in the movie tend to change from time to time, overall, I think Mann strengthened and improved most of the book characters immeasurably. Hard to tell how much of that accomplishment was Mann and how much was due to the talent and insights of the individual actors and actresses. Whatever the mix, it was magic.


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