FORT APACHE (1948) B/W 128m dir: John Ford
w/Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Ward Bond, John Agar, George O'Brien, Irene Rich, Victor McLaglen, Anna Lee, Pedro Armendariz, Dick Foran, Guy Kibbee
This is one of Ford's classic westerns, the first in his cavalry trilogy (followed by SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON and RIO GRANDE).
From The Movie Guide: "The awesome exterior scenes reflect Ford's early training as a painter and provide a remarkable backdrop for the irony which unfolds. Lt. Col. Owen Thursday (Fonda) is a martinet commander bitter over having been sent to fight 'digger' Indians instead of being assigned a glory post. He foolishly leads his men to disaster, but the press later presents him as a hero for the sake of the military's image.
"FORT APACHE is rich beyond its wonderful action scenes and the outdoor panoramas so dear to Ford's heart. The film expertly depicts the social affairs of a far-flung military outpost, the struggle of the women to maintain civility, and the routines of the men in their daily military chores. More importantly, though, it exposes the sham behind public and national concepts of 'the hero.' APACHE is one of the earliest films of Ford's final period, in which he questioned noisy, patriotic bravado and the white man's treatment of the Native American.
"Wayne gives a solid performance, and such stalwarts as McLaglen, Bond, O'Brien, Foran, Armendariz, and Kibbee lend the film its humor and heart. But you find yourself watching Fonda transcend the possible critic's charge of 'miscasting' as the perma-pressed, power-bloated commander. Of course, Fonda's character and the doomed route he pursues are based on the massacre of George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn, and this if anything lends weight to Ford's elegiac reconsideration of 'the American spirit.'"