"The Man Who Never Took Time to Play" ~ In the Land of the Headhunters

It has been suggested that I make ... motion pictures of the most important tribes, such pictures illustrating, so far as possible, the activities of their lives.
~ Edward S. Curtis in a letter sent to prospective supporters in 1912
 

Edward S. Curtis filming In the Land of the Headhunters in Washington state, by Edmund Schwinke, about 1913.  Courtesy James Graybill, Edward S. Curtis' grandson.
Edward S. Curtis filming In the Land of the Headhunters in Washington state, by Edmund Schwinke, about 1913.
Curtis wrote and directed the film In the Land of the Headhunters to raise money for the financially-strapped North American Indian Project. Primarily an ethnographic work about the Kwakiutl Indians, the film resembled the later, far more successful commercial film Nanook of the North (1922) in its use of a plot.


Edmund Schwinke assisting Curtis as he retrieves a stunt dummy from the water, by unknown artist, about 1913.  Courtesy James Graybill, Edward S. Curtis' grandson.
Edmund Schwinke assisting Curtis as he retrieves a stunt dummy from the water, by unknown artist, about 1913.
Despite critical acclaim, the film was shown only once. Curtis never recovered any money from the distributors, whose inexperience may have been responsible for the failure. He eventually sold sections of the film to the American Museum of Natural History in New York for $1,500$73,500 less than it had cost him to produce it.

(Below) Plates from Volume X (1915) of The North American Indian produced during Curtis' work on In the Land of the Headhunters.

Portfolio plate 330 Portfolio plate 330 "Carved Posts at Aleut Bay"


Portfolio plate 337 Portfolio plate 337 "Coming for the Bride"


Portfolio plate 358 Portfolio plate 358 "Masked Dancers"


Portfolio plate 361 (A Bridal Group) Portfolio plate 361 (A Bridal Group)

~ Alaska


~ The Curtis Family ~ Working on the Frontier ~ Gaining Support ~ A Life's Work ~ Early Books ~ Family Sacrifices
~ "The Man Who Never Took Time to Play" ~ Curtis' Technique ~ Alaska ~
~ Timeline ~ Suggested Readings ~ Credits ~

~ Home ~