Taglines: After the Fall from Innocence the Legend begins.
Sick of betrayals the United States government perpetrated on the Native Americans, Colonel William Ludlow leaves the army and moves to a remote part of Montana. Along with One Stab, a Cree friend, he builds a ranch and raises his family. Accompanying them are hired hand and outlaw Decker, Decker’s wife, and daughter Isabel Two. Ludlow has three sons: Alfred, the eldest, is responsible and cautious; Tristan, the Colonel’s favorite son, is wild and well-versed in American Indian traditions; Samuel, the youngest, is educated but naive and constantly watched over by his brothers.
Ludlow’s wife Isabel does not adapt to the harsh Montana winters and moves to the East Coast; Tristan vows never to speak of her again. At age 12, Tristan touches a sleeping grizzly bear. The bear awakens and injures him, but he stabs at the bear’s paw and cuts off a claw. Years later, Samuel returns from Harvard University with his fiancée, Susannah.
Susannah talks with Isabel Two and learns of her fondness for Tristan. Susannah finds Tristan captivating but loves Samuel. Before they can marry, Samuel announces his intention to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force and aid Britain in the fight against Germany. Much to their father’s displeasure, Alfred also joins. Although Tristan does not want to join, he does so to protect his brothers.
During World War I, the brothers find themselves in the 10th Battalion, CEF. Alfred, commissioned as an officer, leads a charge into no man’s land. The attack results in heavy casualties, and Alfred is wounded. While visiting Alfred in the field hospital, Tristan learns that Samuel has volunteered for a dangerous reconnaissance mission.
He rushes off to protect his brother but arrives too late. A devastated Tristan holds Samuel until he dies, then cuts out his brother’s heart and sends it home to be buried at the ranch. Tristan single-handedly raids the German lines. He returns to camp with the scalps of German soldiers hanging around his neck, horrifying his fellow soldiers. He is discharged but does not go home. Alfred returns to Montana and proposes to Susannah, but she declines.
Tristan returns home, where Susannah finds him weeping over Samuel’s grave. She comforts him, and they become lovers. A jealous Alfred confronts Tristan and leaves to make his name in Helena. Tristan is plagued with guilt over Samuel’s death and feels responsible for driving Alfred away; he leaves Montana for several years. Susannah waits for him, only to receive a letter telling her to marry someone else.
Alfred comforts Susannah. Ludlow finds them together, which leads to a falling out between him and Alfred. Ludlow later suffers a stroke. He does not speak for years and the ranch deteriorates. Susannah marries Alfred, now a congressman. Alfred’s business and politics cause him to get involved with the O’Banion brothers, bootleggers and gangsters.
Tristan returns during Prohibition, bringing life back to the ranch and his father. He falls in love with Isabel Two and they marry. They have two children, the elder being a boy named Samuel. Tristan becomes involved in small-scale rum-running, finding himself at odds with the O’Banion brothers.
Isabel is accidentally killed by a police officer working for the O’Banions. In a fit of grief, Tristan beats the officer nearly to death and is jailed. Susannah visits Tristan, still having feelings for him, but he refuses her advances. After his release, Tristan and Decker kill those responsible for Isabel’s death, including one of the O’Banion brothers.
Legends of the Fall is a 1994 American epic drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond and Henry Thomas. Based on the 1979 novella of the same title by Jim Harrison, the film is about three brothers and their father living in the wilderness and plains of Montana in the early 20th century and how their lives are affected by nature, history, war and love.
The film’s time frame spans from World War I through the Prohibition era, ending with a brief scene set in 1963. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography (John Toll). Both the film and book contain occasional Cornish language terms, the Ludlows being a Cornish emigrant family.
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, Karina Lombard, Tantoo Cardinal, Christina Pickles, Robert Wisden, John Novak
Screenplay by: Susan Shilliday, William D. Wittliff,
Production Design by: Lilly Kilvert
Cinematography by: John Toll
Film Editing by: Steven Rosenblum
Costume Design by: Deborah Lynn Scott
Set Decoration by: Dorree Cooper
Art Direction by: Andrew Precht, Rick Roberts
Music by: James Horner
MPAA Rating: R for violence, and for some sexuality and language.
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: December 23, 1994