Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


The middle work of John Ford's U.S. Cavalry trilogy followed the first, "Fort Apache," by one year. The script is again by Frank Nugent (plus Lawrence Stallings); the story again by James Warner Bellah; the music again by Richard Hageman. Winton Hoch photographed. The cast consists of John Wayne, Joanne Dru, Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson, John Agar and more Ford regulars.

In 1876, right after the disaster of Little Big Horn, Capt. Nathan Brittles (Wayne) who is only days away from retirement and none too happy about it. He gets involved in action against the uprising of the united Indian tribes.

Plot and characters matter here less than in "Fort Apache," as the movie, beyond its brilliant scenes of horsemen and of conflict (much of which would not stand up to logical scrutiny), is esentially the portrait of a fine man at the tail-end of a fine career.

The film is lyrical, with nice touches of humor, mostly between Wayne and his boozing , lovable sergeant McLaglen, who will be retiring two weeks later. It is above all a sentimental movie, with irresistible scenes . Like Wayne's visits to the grave of his wife to whom he gives daily reports (it's close to Henry Fonda talking to Ann Rutledge's grave in Ford's earlier "Young Mr Lincoln"). Or like his last inspection of C Troop, when everyone, on and off the screen, gets sniffly-moved.

Ford knew how to throw in bits of business and simple but memorable sentences. The men give a keepsake watch to their Captain. "It's solid silver Sir, brought up from Kansas City. There's a sentiment on the back of it." The way this is done, the lump in the throat is guaranteed, even if you know the film by heart.

On the TV prints I know --even on premium channels --the original, beautiful Technicolor has faded quite a bit, and the sound is rather scratchy, but this should not deter Fordians from watching and taping.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel