Fort Apache is at the end of the trail for the stagecoach and the military career of the self destructive Lt. Col. Owen Thursday. Monument Valley looks spectacular in black and white as do Ann Peck’s and Michael Meyers’ spectacular costumes. Both Peck and Meyers worked with Ford on other projects with equal success and it is worth noting from both a fan and historical perspective the attention to detail that both costumers put into the movies. Costumes and countryside are both important elements to the story telling in this movie. One thing which cinemaphiles may want to note is the spectacular depth of field typical of black and white movies and especially of note in the long shots
It can be hard to imagine that the former ambassador to Czechoslovakia and the vice president of American Academy of Diplomacy is a featured actress in this movie but there she is, barely 20 years old, Shirley Temple lights up the screen as Philadelpia Thursday who in a casting stroke that could only happen in old Hollywood was actually married at the time to John Agar who plays her suitor Lt. Michael O’Rourke in Fort Apache. The starring cast lead by the great Academy Award winner, Henry Fonda as Lt. Col. Owen Thursday, Academy Award Winner John Wayne as Capt. Kirby York, Academy Award Winner Victor Mclaglen as Sgt. Festus Mulcahy and western movie stalwart George O’Brien (Riders of the Purple Sage) works like a well oiled machine.
There is one question which hangs over this movie that is never really addressed: Why does John Wayne get billing? As roles go John Wayne’s role in Fort Apache is smaller than that of Fonda, Temple, Agar and Mclaglen yet he still gets billing over everyone else. If you are expecting Fort Apache to be a John Wayne movie you will be disappointed. Wayne plays a pivotal role, but he is not the major player in Fort Apache. Nonetheless this is a superb cavalry western complete with all the elements necessary for a great story: A legendary Apache Chief in the person of Cochise and a demoted cavalry general hungry for promotion and recognition.
This is a western which really does have something for everyone. There is a very sweet love story between Philadephia Thursday and Michael O’Rourke, a military story, comic relief in the form of the four sergeants responsible for keeping Fort Apache in shape and the code of the west embodied in Wayne’s Captain York. At the heart of it this is a story about myth making and how the actions of a man can be reinterpreted by the powers that be to suit their needs and not be reflective of the man at all. Everything comes together in this movie to deliver a strong story with strong performances and a very Ford directorial effort.
Other John Ford Reviews
They Were Expendable: Classic war movie by John Ford starring John Wayne
The Long Voyage Home: Classic sea-faring movie by John Ford with John Wayne
The Wings Of Eagles: Biography of Frank Spig Wead. John Wayne does comedy.
John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection: The ultimate collection of John Wayne and John Ford in one boxed set.
Stagecoach: A great western movie classic.
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack.
The Searchers: Simply one of the finest old style western movies John Wayne ever appeared in.
3 Godfathers: Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.