There is much confusion and many conflicting stories about the true life of Johnson. Some reports say he was born in New Jersey and his last name was Garrison. How his last name became Johnston or Johnson is unclear and the sources vary in their explanations.
People seem to agree that he died in a veteran’s home in Santa Monica, California in 1900 at the age of 78 and was buried in the Sawtell Veterans Cemetery. In June of 1974, Johnston’s body was re-buried in Cody, Wyoming. Reportedly, Robert Redford served as one of the pall bearers.
There are also conflicting reports about his first name. It is generally agreed that he wasn’t known as Jeremiah Johnson but was really Jack or John Johnston or Johnson. He was also known as Liver-Eating Johnson because he supposedly ate the livers of the Indians he killed. There is at least one report that Johnston himself denied this and claimed he was just showing off for a friend and really didn’t eat the liver.
The reports seem to agree that he did carry on a long period of revenge against the Crow Indians to avenge the death of his Flathead wife and unborn child. If you can look at this 1972 movie as entertainment and not as a historical piece, then you should enjoy it.
The setting is a very impressive part of the movie. The mountains and high plains make an excellent backdrop for the tale. It is also a story of rugged individualism, a trait sorely lacking in the herd mentality of our society today.
The film begins showing Jeremiah being transported up a river to an outpost where he outfits himself with all the tools of the mountain man trade. Some references say that this was in the Blacksnake Hills of Wyoming. Others claim he outfitted himself in Missouri before traveling west. From the outpost, he heads to the mountains where he meets Bear Claw Chris Lapp (real name John Hatcher?) who teaches him the ways of the mountain man.
After he sets out on his own, he meets Del Gue, another mountain man and they form a friendship. Del Gue seems to be an actual historical figure.
The rest of the movie deals with the hardships of the life of a mountain man, his feud with the Crow Indians and his friendship with the Flatheads. This is an excellent movie and we highly recommend it.
- Robert Redford – Jeremiah Johnson
- Will Geer – Bear Claw
- Delle Bolton – Swan
- Josh Albee – Caleb
- Joaquin Martinez – Paints His Shirt Red
- Allyn Ann McLerie – Crazy Woman
- Stefan Gierasch – Del Gue
- Richard Angarola – Chief Two Tongues Lebeaux
- Paul Benedict – Reverend Lindquist
- Charles Tyner- Robidoux
- Jack Colvin-Lieutenant Mulvey
- Matt Clark-Qualen
- Tanya Tucker-Qualen’s Daughter