|11.13.23||Internet||This Screening is part of event: DVRfest 2023|
I took today off so I could stay up late last night but I've got time enough for one more double feature I think to wind this... ragtag DVRfest to a close. This pairing was 100% title. One of those stupid programming ideas which is probably why i'm not an actual film programmer.
Fort Apache is a John Ford western starring John Wayne (looking young even at 40) and Henry Fonda as a hard-assed general custer type. It's full on John Ford: Monument Valley, rousing score, dinner tables, dances. This is also the first in what's considered Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy" along with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande. As with most movies from the golden era of Hollywood, you kind of have to slow your pace a bit and try to put yourself back in a time before the internet when people actually had attention spans. But it's also fun to think that this movie was made as long ago as the events of the movie were when they made it. That's part of the magic of movies... to see these glimpses in time both in the storytelling and the artifice of the craft of moviemaking.
Also, you know when a movie is good when it's two hours long made by a bunch of dead people and you aren't bored by one minute of it. While much of this I'd consider a classical western, perhaps the very definition, the story is still pretty nuanced and complex. You've got Fonda there being a hard-ass but it's all mixed up between military etiquette and him being a father and also him being naive to his post and searching for glory. You've got Duke Wayne the wise captain who still must abide by command, you've got a somewhat typical romeo and juliet romance (made interesting on a meta level because they were played by grown-up Shirley Temple and her husband... she was pregnant while filming but John Ford gave him a such a hard time that he almost quit were it not for Wayne's help and acting tutelage... but the couple would soon go through a public divorce with mention of alcoholism and abuse (all of this is from the imdb trivia so hopefully it's true)), and you've also got the meat and potatoes entertainment engine of these experienced seargents training new recruits. So it's a drama, western, war movie, and little bit of romance all rolled into one. Then you have the portrayal of the apache peoples (many actual navajos but speaking roles going to mexican actors) as more formidable and complicated than just a convenient faceless enemy. The plot isn't complicated but the story is made complex by the characters. To me it so represents how good hollywood used to be at manufacturing dreams.
So it's not like some huge revelation that this movie is good but I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it. When I was a kid, John Wayne was my mom's (and her sisters') favorite movie star. They'd make up quizzes to test each other with trivia. As such, I was never interested in being told what was good so I avoided watching/liking all his movies for most of my life. Well, as it turns out, there's a reason he was so beloved! He's pretty damn good here, and not as the swaggering drawling older leading man but an actual doing-the-work supporting role where he totally shines among an entire cast of interesting characters. Who would've thought!
Anyway. Time for one more.