Fort Apache

Screening on Film
Recently Restored
Directed by John Ford.
With John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple.
US, 1948, 35mm, black & white, 127 min.
Print source: Library of Congress

The first and darkest entry in Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy,” Fort Apache paints a stark and mesmerizing portrait of an isolated military outpost on the furthest edge of the Western frontier in the years just after the Civil War. Ford’s own extensive firsthand experience in WWII informs both the film’s detailed rendering of the customs and contradictions of everyday life in the lonely fort as well as its ultimately ambiguous attitude towards the hierarchical (il)logic of the military community. While Henry Fonda brilliantly embodies the callous, deadly arrogance of a Custer-like colonel fixed upon ruthless battle with the Indians, Pedro Armendáriz, John Wayne and a radiant teenage Shirley Temple together define a warm human counterpoint. Considered by many to be the first genuinely sympathetic and realistic portrayal of Native Americans in a major Hollywood feature, Fort Apache points towards the important revisionist tendencies in Ford’s later work. 

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Classic Ford.
A John Ford Retrospective, Part I

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John Ford:
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