The Light in the Forest

Overview

Those who learned to dislike Conrad Richter's novel The Light in the Forest when it was required reading in high school will be pleasantly surprised by this Disney adaptation. In his second film appearance, James MacArthur plays Johnny Butler, a white youth who was captured by the Delaware Indians in infancy. In 1764, a peace treaty is signed between the Delaware and the British, requiring that all white captives be returned to their families. But 18-year-old Johnny, now known as True Son and now thoroughly ...
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Overview

Those who learned to dislike Conrad Richter's novel The Light in the Forest when it was required reading in high school will be pleasantly surprised by this Disney adaptation. In his second film appearance, James MacArthur plays Johnny Butler, a white youth who was captured by the Delaware Indians in infancy. In 1764, a peace treaty is signed between the Delaware and the British, requiring that all white captives be returned to their families. But 18-year-old Johnny, now known as True Son and now thoroughly assimilated into the tribe, violently resists being torn away from the only life he has ever known. Kindly Indian scout Del Hardy Fess Parker tries to help Johnny through his transitional period; the same cannot be said by Johnny's Indian-hating Uncle Wilse Wendell Corey, who vows to kill every Delaware he meets. Only by defeating Wilse-and, by extention, his own inner demons-will Johnny ever be able to readjust to the white lifestyle without totally turning his back on his adoptive Indian family. Carol Lynley makes her screen debut as Shendandoe, Johnny's white sweetheart; likewise making his entree into films is TV director Herschel Daugherty. Partially filmed on location in Tennessee, Light in the Forest benefited from the expertise of technical advisor Iron Eyes Cody.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
How one reacts to The Light in the Forest pretty much depends on one's feeling about the Conrad Richter novel on which it is based. Fans of the book will likely look askance at the Disney version of Light, which bowdlerizes the piece and tears the guts out of its treatment of and examination of racial hatred. This approach radically alters the one and message of the book, and this will probably alienate those who treasure the novel. On the other hand, those who do not like or do not know the book may find Light much more to their liking. Certainly it follows a winning formula in its predictable screenplay, and its surface treatment of issues that the novel explores in more depth makes it easy to digest, especially for younger audiences who will also respond to the exciting setting and much of the Indian-related segments. Whatever one thinks of the screenplay, the cast at least is good, with James MacArthur quite winning in the lead role, and Wendell Corey appropriately vile as the bigoted uncle. There's also some nice moments from Fess Parker, and Carol Lynley looks lovely and youthfully fresh. Direction is fine if unremarkable, and the color photography is a plus.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/26/1997
  • UPC: 786936028737
  • Original Release: 1958
  • Rating:

  • Source: Walt Disney Video
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fess Parker Del Hardy
Wendell Corey Wilse Owens
Joanne Dru Milly Elder
James MacArthur Johnny Butler/True Son
Jessica Tandy Myra Butler
John McIntire John Elder
Joseph Calleia Chief Cuyloga
Carol Lynley Shenandoe Hastings
Rafael Campos Half Arrow
Frank Ferguson Harry Butler
Norman Fredric Niskitoon
Marian Seldes Kate Owens
Sam Buffington George Owens
Stephen Bekassy Col. Henry Bouquet
Technical Credits
Herschel Daugherty Director
Gertrude Casey Costumes/Costume Designer
Carroll Clark Art Director
Walt Disney Producer
Ellsworth Fredericks Cinematographer
Stanley E. Johnson Editor
Chuck Keehne Costumes/Costume Designer
Emile Kuri Set Decoration/Design
Fred MacLean Set Decoration/Design
Franklyn Marks Musical Direction/Supervision
Pat McNalley Makeup
Paul J. Smith Score Composer
Lawrence Edward Watkin Screenwriter
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