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Western films, from silent to today

Silent Tongue (1993)

Silent Tongue (1993) DVD coverRichard Harris is Prescott Roe, a father desperately watching his son slip into madness and determined to do something about it.

A year before the film begins, he purchased a young Kiowa woman named Awbonnie from her white father (Alan Bates as Eamon McCree) to help pull his son out of his depression. It apparently worked, at least in part. Then Awbonnie died in childbirth.

Now Talbot Roe (River Phoenix) guards her dead body all day, not eating, not sleeping, getting weaker by the day. His father’s solution: Purchase Awbonnie’s sister Velada to take her place.

McCree is willing to make the deal, if the price is right. His son Reeves (Dermont Mulroney) is against it. With time running short, Prescott Roe kidnaps Velada and rides off. Reeves follows to rescue Velada; Eamon tags along, though he’s more concerned about the valuable horse his half-breed daughter was riding than her welfare.

Rating 4 of 6Review:

A different and intriguing Western that grabs your attention early on with images of River Phoenix’s character guarding his dead wife’s body and of the traveling freak show / medicine show that Eamon McCree and his family run.

Nearly everyone involved is haunted by the ghost of Awbonnie. She wants her body burned so her spirit can be set free. The ghost even threatens to cut out her sister’s tongue is she doesn’t help make that happen.

The film’s title refers to McCree’s wife, a Kiowa woman who indeed had her tongue cut out, bore McCree two daughters, then fled his circus to rejoin her tribe. In the end, she gets her revenge as well.

This marked the final completed film for River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose in 1993 at age 23.

Directed by:
Sam Shepard

Cast:
Richard Harris … Prescott Roe
River Phoenix … Talbot Roe
Alan Bates … Eamon McCree
Dermont Mulroney … Reeves McCree
Sheila Tousey … Awbonnie/Ghost
Jeri Arendondo … Velada McCree
Bill Irwin … Comic
David Shiner … Straight Man
Tantoo Cardinal … Silent Tongue

Runtime: 102 min.

Memorable lines:

Eamon McCree, upon learning his daughter Awbonnie died giving birth: “There’s no accounting for the trauma of birth, is there? That’s one I never got over myself.”

Prescott Roe: ”He just stands over her corpse like a lost soul, watchin, speakin’ tongues, guarding, as though she were still in the world.”
Eamon McCree: “Well, he’ll soon get over that business. You know how the heart goes. Give him time. After all, she was only his first wife.”
Eamon McCree, upon learning that McCree wants to swap three horses for his second daughter: “I’m not a bottomless pit of daughters, Mr. Roe. I’ve only one left now, apparently.”

Awbonnie: “You keep me bound here out of your selfish fear of aloneness. I’m not your life.”

Prescott Roe, to Velada: “There’s no way to see the outcome of a thing. What I hoped to become my son’s salvation became his ruin.”

Reeves McCree, when his father expresses more concern over the value of a stolen horse than his missing daughter: “It shames me to be the son of a pig.”
Eamon McCree: “You’ll grow out of it. Just thank your stars you weren’t born a half-breed like your demon sisters.”

Reeves McCree, when his father wants to abandon their search: “What about Velada?”
Eamon McCree: “She’s a Kiowa. She’ll make do.”
Reeves: “She’s your daughter.”
Eamon: “She’s a Kiowa first. … She’s an Indian. She was born to suffer.”

Reeves McCree, when his father spies a small band of Indians on the horizon: “It’s just a hunting party.”
Eamon McCree: “Just a hunting party? And what do you suppose they might be hunting? I’m tellin’ you now, if we don’t turn back the dogs will be eating out testicles by nightfall.”

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