Saturday, June 30, 2012

John Ford: Fort Apache

John Ford's Fort Apache (1948) is stranger than I expected. On the one hand, the music soundtrack is gratingly corndog, but on the other hand, the film's study of military manners, socio-economic class and cultural differences is rendered with noteworhy attention to detail. Henry Fonda is superb, the supporting actors, including John Wayne and Shirley Temple, solid.

In Fort Apache, Henry Fonda's turn as a psychologically tortured new post commander -- and former general during the American Civil War -- carries the entire movie. His Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday is not exactly a villain like his character Frank in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West / C'era una volta il West (1968), nor is he an outlaw like Frank James -- which he played in Jesse James (1939) and The Return of Frank James (1940). Rather, he is a West Point graduate, a widower and stickler for military rules and the chain of command; he loves his daughter Philadelphia (Shirley Temple); shows occasional kindness, compassion and understanding; but ultimately, he is trapped in the mindset of time, place and class. Because of this entrapment, he makes a couple of decisively foolhardy decisions, making Fort Apache almost like a Buddhist tale about the Wheel of Life.

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.

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