August 16th, 2009

FORT APACHE (1948) ** ½

Henry Fonda plays this asshole Colonel (who resembles General Custer in more ways than one) that takes over the title fort and immediately starts bossing people around.  His second-in-command (John Wayne) knows he’s an asshole but he dutifully obliges the arrogant prick.  Meanwhile, the Colonel’s daughter (Shirley Temple) falls in love with one of the pretty boy officers (John Agar), which pretty much pisses him off to no end.  In the Colonel’s never-ending quest for glory and fame, he double-crosses the great Apache chief Cochise and goads him into a fight.  Fonda eventually gets his comeuppance when the Apache nation massacres much of his platoon.


Fort Apache was the first in director John Ford’s “Calvary Trilogy”.  (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande were the other two.)  While I didn’t enjoy this installment as much as I did the other films in the unofficial series, it still had enough memorable moments to make it worthwhile.  Although the action sequences were a long time coming, they were exciting and shot with Ford’s usual machismo.


I watched Fort Apache almost solely because John Wayne was in it, so I was taken aback by the fact that he had such a small role.  His only function in the whole movie is to get bitched out by Fonda and then solemnly follow orders.  The Duke did a good job all things considered but I just wish the script had given him more to do.  Fort Apache is Fonda’s movie through and through and he really digs into his role.  He imbued his character with a lot of piss and vinegar which is kinda surprising since he’s more or less known for playing the good guy.


Then there was Shirley Temple.  She was all grown up and looking like a fox.  She was married to co-star Agar (who was making his screen debut) and their on screen rapport seemed pretty genuine.  In fact, Agar looks like he’s two seconds away from making her suck his Good Ship Lollipop. 


Ford and Wayne once again teamed up for 3 Godfathers later in the year.


AKA:  War Party.