“The Revenant,” the epic story of survival on the early American frontier, already has won big at the Golden Globes: best drama, best director for Alejandro González Iñárritu and best lead actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.
Predictions are that the movie, its director and stars also could make a splash at the Oscars on Feb. 28. (Nominations will be announced on Thursday, starting at 8:30 a.m.)
If they do – or, even they don’t – Richmond can take a bow.
That’s because one of the central characters, Jim Bridger, a native Richmonder played by English actor Will Poulter, plays a key role as a youthful frontiersman. Along with an older member of a hunting team, Bridger leaves legendary explorer Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) to die in the wilderness after being savagely mauled by a grizzly bear.
Well, that’s not such a good start for Bridger.
But the then 19-year-old Bridger redeems himself, if not so much in the movie as he did in real life.
According to one of his best known biographies, “Jim Bridger: Mountain Man,” written by Stanley Vestal, Bridger was ashamed of his behavior.
To atone, he became a friend, adviser and scout on the frontier, earning the endearing moniker of “Old Gabe” for his generosity toward others.
Later generations honored him with statues for his explorations and feats of courage. In Wyoming, a state museum and historic site bears his name.
Bridger was born in Richmond on March 17, 1804, the son of a tavern owner.
Eight years later, in 1812, his father moved west in search of adventure. As Bridger neared 14, his mother died. His brother and his father also soon passed away, leaving Bridger and his sister as the family’s sole survivors.
A maiden aunt came to care for his sister, and Bridger took a job as a ferryman. The rugged frontiersmen he encountered offer him a life of adventure beyond his imagination, and he grabbed at the chance.
Among his many discoveries, Bridger is credited with finding the Great Salt Lake in Utah, although he initially believed it was part of the Pacific Ocean.
In 1830, he became a partner in the Rocky Mountain Fur Co., but a decade later realized that the fur trade was playing out.
So, he and another partner established Fort Bridger – like many Richmonders, he was not beyond promoting his own brand – which became a major way station on the Oregon and California trails, and a Pony Express station.
Bridger married three times, all to Native American women, and became fluent in nearly a dozen Native American languages.
He died in 1881 at the age of 77 on his farm in Missouri.
If he had remained in Richmond, he likely would have inherited his father’s business and tended bar.
And you would have never heard of him.