Movie Review: The Wind and the Lion

by Steve Lancaster11/19/17
This is one of the most romantic movies of the 20th century. There is no sex, nudity, or obscene language, although there is a fair amount of violence. The movie released in 1975 is one of the last filmed in Spain before the death of Franco and therefore had the active involvement of the Spanish government in providing extras, mostly military, for the film. The director is the well-respected John Milius and stars Sean Connery, Candice Bergan and Brian Keith and in supporting roles John Huston and Steve Kanaly. Milius also takes credit as the writer and Jerry Goldsmith providing the music.

The year is 1904 President McKinley has been dead for three years and VP, now President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is seeking to be elected. In Morocco an obscure desert raider, brigand and warlord Raisuli (Sean Connery) has kidnapped an American, Mrs. Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergan) and her two children and is holding them for ransom. The response from the Roosevelt administration is swift, Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead! To this end Roosevelt sends the Atlantic fleet to Morocco along with Marines.

Morocco in 1904 is a monarchy. The Sultan resides in Fez while the real power and the government is in Tangiers under the control of the Basheer, who is the uncle of the Sultan and the brother of Raisuli. Negotiations for the release of Mrs. Pedecaris and the children progress slowly.

Meanwhile in the Riff, Raisuli and Mrs. Pedecaris are settled into in uneasy peace. She has accepted that ransom will be paid and challenges Raisuli to accept it. Raisuli wants in addition to money and independence for the Europeans to leave Morocco, “The Europeans bring money and guns, but that is always followed by more Europeans.”

The situation is resolved by the arrival of the Atlantic fleet. The Admiral and the American Ambassador decide to seize the government of Morocco in Tangier, dictate terms for Mrs. Pedecaris release. To this end Captain Jerome (Steve Kanaly) and two reinforced rifle companies of Marines march on the palace place the Basheer under arrest and arrange for ransom to be paid.

Meanwhile in DC Theodore Roosevelt is working on his election while his Secretary of State John Hay (john Huston) is striving to keep up with the changing situation. In regard to the seizure of the Moroccan government; Roosevelt, “I tried to give the boys what they wanted, John”, “I suppose a declaration of war would be too much to ask?” Hay responds.

The arrangements are made, Raisuli and his followers bring Mrs. Pedecaris to a remote town for the exchange and she is turned over to Captain Jerome and the Marines. Raisuli is seized by the Germans and the French and Raisuli’s army attacks at first light. Mrs. Pedecaris and the Marines decide that treachery was not Roosevelt’s intent and join in the fight to free Raisuli.

The movie ends with Roosevelt walking with his staff, “gentleman the fate of the American government will be determined by the voters in November and the fate of Morocco will be determined tomorrow by me”. The staff leave and Roosevelt reads a letter from Raisuli. “To Theodore Roosevelt – you are like the Wind and I like the Lion. You form the Tempest. The sand stings my eyes and the Ground is parched. I roar in defiance but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place. While you like the wind will never know yours. – Mulay Hamid El Raisuli, Lord of the Riff, Sultan to the Berbers, Last of the Barbary Pirates.”

There are a lot of things about this movie that make it romantic. The first scene when Raisuli is capturing Mrs. Pedecaris is one comparable to the stairway scene in Gone with the Wind. Connery in that one scene forever leaves typecasting far behind and becomes more than Bond. Then again, the movie was released in 1975, before the current onslaught of Islamic violence. The photography is magnificent sweeping vistas, raw mountains and hundreds on horseback. The soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith adds to the romantic sensation.

The story itself, is fiction. TR never seized the government of Morocco. However, writers license takes a number of real people into the story, at least on a tangent.  There was a real person, Ion Pedecaris who, may or may not have been an American, and was kidnapped by the real Raisuli they became friends with Raisuli and spat on the ransom money. The Europeans were very interested in Morocco and Europe was looking for a war.

TR did have a Secretary of State named John Hay. Hay is one of the most interesting people of the 19th century. The culmination of his career was  SoS for Roosevelt, but during the War of Northern Invasion he was an aid to Lincoln. Over the next 40 years he was in and out of government in various positions.

This is one of the movies that has stood the test of time. Not because it has a great message but because you feel better when it is over than you did when it started. Isn’t that what entertainment is supposed to do? • (97 views)

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2 Responses to Movie Review: The Wind and the Lion

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Pedecaris was a Greek-American with Greek citizenship. He may have had a dual citizenship. “Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead” was indeed a slogan Roosevelt used at the convention, though by then steps were already being taken that led to his release. As you say, this didn’t involve any American (or European) force. The European takeover of Morocco was still in the future at this time; indeed, Spanish control of the Rid would only be completed over 20 years later. (The Rif War led to the creation of the Spanish Foreign Legion by Jose Millan Astray, using the French version as the model.)

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Thanks for the review, Steve. I’m going to have to queue this one up again. I haven’t seen it in years. I was thinking that when Sean Connery slips his mortal coil, he will represent the passing of one of the few remaining real classic stars. It’s such a relatively bland bunch of actors out there these days. I wish the guy well and a big think you for all the great movie memories.

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