Two drifters are passing through a Western town, when news comes in that a local farmer has been murdered and his cattle stolen. The townspeople, joined by the drifters, form a posse to catch the perpetrators. They find three men in possession of the cattle, and are determined to see justice done on the spot. Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
Henry Fonda was generally unhappy with the quality of the films he had to do while under contract with 20th Century Fox. This was one of only two films from that period that he was actually enthusiastic about starring in. The other was The Grapes of Wrath (1940). See more »
Gil Carter (Fonda) pulls his gun out twice when the mob first arrives at the Ox-Bow. See more »
God better have mercy on you. You won't get any from me.
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At the end of the credits an ad for U.S. war savings bonds is shown on the screen. It says that "15,000 movie theatres are now selling U.S. war savings stamps and bonds! Buy yours in this theatre." See more »
SPOILER AHEAD...Grim, sobering and well-acted story of vigilante justice...
THE OX-BOW INCIDENT was never considered a success at the time of release, especially by studio mogul Darryl F. Zanuck who never considered a film a success of any kind if it lost at the box-office. However, over the years it has become an artistic success with fans who appreciate good movie-making when they see it.
The performances are all first rate--particularly HENRY FONDA as the not too bright drifter who opposes the lynching mob, Harry Morgan as his rather slow witted sidekick, Frank Conroy as the General with the weakling son (William Eythe), and most importantly, DANA ANDREWS, who has the most riveting role in the whole film and makes the most of it. His is the outstanding contribution, sensitive and gripping. The story is based on a true incident that happened in Montana in the late 1880s--and, of course, one that could have happened anywhere in the old West.
It's easy to see why it was not a commercial success. Except for Fonda, there are no other major stars in the cast for marquee value. Neither Dana Andrews nor Anthony Quinn had yet achieved star status. The story is grim and downright sobering, dwelling, as it does, on man's inhumanity to man. The Paul Hurst character, who makes various mocking gestures with his hangman's knot, adds to the grim gloominess of all the proceedings. Hurst (who played the Yankee deserter in GWTW) was almost always cast as a villainous lug.
The night scenes involving the hanging seem to take place on a studio soundstage but somehow it doesn't matter. Nothing distracts from the taut realism of the drama once we know that the lynching is definitely going to be carried out. Afterwards, the knowledge that the man they allegedly hanged is not dead, comes as a twist that drives home the senselessness of what their mob mentality has done.
Mary Beth Hughes has a decorative role as the only feminine interest in the film--except for an uncredited bit by Margaret Hamilton and an unusually grim and unsympathetic role for Jane Darwell.
Well worth watching, a message picture that delivers without being preachy. My only complaint is that the letter Fonda reads at the end could have been simpler and less eloquent for the sake of realism and in keeping with the naturalness of Dana Andrew's performance. Complementing Andrew's work is a nice, sympathetic performance by character actor Harry Davenport as the man who tries hard to prevent the hanging.
Otherwise, everything is right on the mark. Well worth watching.
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