Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water.
Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros.
Deep into the territory of the great Apache chief, Cochise, the demoted Civil War general, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday, reports for duty as a commanding officer at the remote U.S. cavalry outpost known as Fort Apache, along with his daughter, Philadelphia. There, the arrogant commander will soon lock horns with the realistic and sensible second-in-command, Captain Kirby York, who, as an expert in the local Apaches, disagrees with Thursday who wants to make a name for himself in the Arizona frontier. In the end, is it wise to engage in battle when personal glory is all you seek?Written by
Although they would work together on 11 pictures, John Ford and Frank Nugent did not establish the same close relationship Ford had with Dudley Nichols, nor did Ford have the same level of respect for Nugent, even though Nugent married Ford's daughter. "Once the script is finished, the writer had better keep out of his way," Nugent said. "The finished picture is always Ford's, never the writer's." Nevertheless, Ford was lucky to receive both Nugent's and Merian C. Cooper's contributions to the project. According to screenwriter Philip Dunne, who worked with Ford on How Green Was My Valley (1941), "Ford doesn't really understand scripts. He has no story sense. He has a great sense of scenes. But Ford should never be the producer of his pictures." See more »
When Col. Thursday leads a company "at a striking distance" from a repair patrol lead by Lt. O'Rourke. Sgt. Mulcahey is part of O'Rourke's patrol, but when the action shifts to show Col. Thursday's company in a saber charge against the Apache's there is a clear shot of Sgt. Mulcahey riding next to the flag bearer with his saber drawn. Note: this scene was duplicated from Col. Thursday's final charge against Cochise. See more »
[Lt. O'Rourke is being introduced to Philadelphia Thursday]
First Sgt. Festus Mulcahy:
Ma'am, this is my godson, "Leftenant" O'Rourke. Many's the time he's come to me with a wet nose.
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An entertaining western with plenty of value in the characters, writing and commentary
Owen Thursday is hardly impressed when his new command is the desolate Fort Apache, but resolves to make the best of it. When a group of Indians strike out from the local reserve led by warrior Cochise, Thursday sees the challenge as being key in winning back the military honour he feels has been denied him to date. However Captain York persuades him to allow York to go into Mexico to talk peace and convincing him to return to the US to broker a resolution but will Thursday's obsession with honour and glory cause a bloodier ending? Interweaving this central plot with romantic and comic subplots makes a standard western into a much better one, even if it sometimes causes it to feel a bit slow. The story concerns an outlying post and the first half of the film lays down the characters, their relationships and who they are in ways that are interesting and produces a mix of funny moments and rather slower dramatic moments all of them work as well as one another and it enriches the final section of the film. It is in this final third of the film where the action starts and it is rather dramatic and exciting; it also brings out a lot more of the subtext about the arrogant leadership of Thursday, based on the character traits that we have already had developed in him in regards his men and his daughter. It is made to look easy but the script does it well and even finishes with Ford's oft-touched assertion that the legend was often printed in favour of the less impressive truth although it still has a salute to the serving men.
The cast are all pretty strong, although naturally the script favours the men, although having said that Temple is quite good if you can get past her "precious princess" performance. Fonda has the main role and manages to make his character convincing and arrogant at the same time we never hate him so much as just see his failings. Wayne has a straighter role to play and he is as good as ever with it, although it is hardly the most challenging character I've seen him play. Agar is a bit stilted and unsure of himself unsurprisingly his chemistry is good with Temple (they were married at the time) but it is the other parts where he appears overshadowed by the stronger male actors. Support is roundly good, particularly in the comic roles as filled by Bond, McLagen and some of the other NCO's. Direction is good, although I felt that the landscapes were "there" rather than being integrated into the fabric of the film.
Overall this is a worthy film. Perhaps not the best of the ford films but still an intelligent film that delivers the goods just like a standard western would, while also having good writing in the characters and subtexts. The cast are mainly good and the whole film feels professional and entertaining.
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