Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Fort Apache

I am having a lazy lay in day because I felt like it.

I had intended to combine my notes on True Grit with Fort Apache the second John Wayne film experienced once more over the weekend. The film, Fort Apache is the first part of a John Ford Cavalry trilogy with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande, This 1948 film is reputed to have been the first to begin to show the true story of what happened to the North American indigenous population as the new arrivals exploited, slaughtered, manipulated, deprived and betrayed one way or another the land owners and nationals for their own betterment and greed. What rthe European settles was no different from the Nazi and Communist occupations in Europe in the last century There was much applause with the election of President Obama to the White House. The real challenge is for a native American to be elected.

The story of the film is the clash between a Captain (John Wayne) as an experienced officer having commanded his own regiment in the civil war, overlooked for the command of an isolated outpost by a northern West Point graduate Lieutenant Colonel and Civil War General (Henry Fonda). The problem is that Fonda has been sent with a mission to get the Indians Apache in the film Sioux in reality to return to their reservation from Mexico where they have taken shelter he has no previous knowledge of their culture and fighting skills. Wayne volunteers to approach the Indians with a Spanish speaking officer as interpreter and persuade them to return offering peace and a negotiated resettlement.

The Indians have left their Reservation because of the corrupt government Indian agent and Wayne promises that their grievances will be addressed. Fonda responds by seizing the opportunity for a take it or leave ultimatum and then charges four abreast into trap which results in his men being slaughtered.
Before then we have the drama of the commander refusing to allow his teenage daughter to marry the young officer son of a Sergeant Major non commissioned officer simply because of social inequality and personal prejudice. There is also the usual boys will be boys drink and fighting and the formal dance arranged by the non commissioned officers at with the officers and their families are invited. The daughter is played by Shirley Temple.

Although stubborn, incompetent to the point of irresponsibility Fonda is a man of honour so when Wayne rescues him, he goes off on a individual charge back into the valley where the remaining men are facing death against what were overwhelming forces. Previously he has ordered Wayne to stay with the supply wagons after his attack plan is questioned but eh also insisting that the Sergeant’s boyfriend accompanies him.

The film ends with Wayne un charge of the fort with Fonda’s daughter now married and with a child adn the slaughter men replaced by new recruits, A number of journalists are present as Wayne is about to go off to try again an negotiate a settlement with the Indians. The newsmen noting a painted portrait of Fonda above the fireplace in the Commander’s office comment that he had become a national hero. Wayne does not refute the popular view uttering sentimental nonsense about the regiment always living on. Among others in the cast is Victor McLaglen

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