Fort Apache

Fort Apache (John Ford, 1948) wr. Frank S. Nugent; b/w; 2hrs8min.

John Wayne, Henry Fonda

At Fort Apache, an honorable and veteran war captain (Wayne) finds conflict when his regime is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel (Fonda) with no respect for the local Indian tribe.

This is the first of Ford's 'cavalry trilogy', each starring Wayne, the other two being She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950). It's simple film-making, with flat characters, no close-ups, and no camera movement. Wayne 'understands' the local chief Cochise, and they 'trust' each other. But Fonda betrays that trust by attacking the native people once he has got them to his side of the river: 'white man speak with forked tongue' again. Cochise is played by a Mexican, Miguel Inclán, so it's convenient that the native somehow speaks Spanish, and Wayne's character communicates in that language, using an interpreter. Fonda's character is an idiot who gets killed deservedly, but the film ends with a celebration of his heroism. I noticed Victor McLaglen and Ward Bond in the cast, but failed to recognise Shirley Temple, who plays a naive twit. The whole thing is disgusting and trivial - and over-rated. The Wikipedia article quotes people writing that it's a 'pro-Indian Western' that treats them with 'sympathy and respect'. However, they are shown as being naive, only one ever speaks, and the actor playing him doesn't even make it onto the first IMDb page for the film. They are mostly there just to get killed in numerous scenes of horses being tripped and probably injured (and afterwards shot) and stuntmen risking their lives and limbs falling off them. And the music's awful.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 15 June, 2019 | Now: 15 June, 2019