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Fort Apache (1948)

Approved | | Western | 14 June 1948 (Brazil)
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At Fort Apache, an honorable and veteran war captain finds conflict when his regime is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel with no respect for the local Indian tribe.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (suggested by the story "Massacre")
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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Sgt. Beaufort (as Pedro Armendariz)
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Jack Pennick ...
Ray Hyke ...
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Storyline

In John Ford's sombre exploration mythologising of American heroes, he slowly reveals the character of Owen Thursday, who sees his new posting to the desolate Fort Apache as a chance to claim the military honour which he believes is rightfully his. Arrogant, obsessed with military form and ultimately self-destructive, Thursday attempts to destroy the Apache chief Cochise after luring him across the border from Mexico, against the advice of his subordinates. Written by Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

John Ford's Masterpiece of the Frontier!

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

14 June 1948 (Brazil)  »

Also Known As:

War Party  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,500,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When working with John Ford, John Wayne gave himself over completely to the director's intentions and orders and had great respect for Ford's talent. "When he pointed the camera, he was painting with it," Wayne said. "He didn't believe in keeping the camera in motion; he moved his people toward the camera and away from it." See more »

Goofs

The Scene when Thursday arrives at Fort Apache could not happen in real life.

Captain York calls Thursday "General Thursday"; Thursday says his rank is lieutenant colonel, the rank he is paid in; and York explains he remembers Thursday as a general from the War.

But Thursday wears a major general's frock coat in this and some other scenes (you can tell by the arrangement of the buttons) , and is never accused of wearing the wrong uniform. Therefore Thursday had the right to wear a major general's uniform despite being a lieutenant colonel.

So Thursday must have been a substantive lieutenant colonel and a brevet (honorary) major general. That would give him the right to wear the uniform of his brevet rank on some occasions.

But being a brevet major general also meant that it was polite to call Thursday "general". For example, when Custer sent Captain Benteen on a scouting mission at the Little Big Horn on June 26, 1876, Custer is quoted as addressing Benteen by his brevet rank as "Colonel Benteen".

So either Thursday was violating regulations by wearing a major general's frock coat and should have been cited for it, or else Captain York would have been rude if he hadn't addressed Thursday as "General".. The scene could not have happened in real life. See more »

Quotes

[the regiment is getting ready to attack - Col. Thursday scans the horizon with his binoculars]
Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: I don't see them. Not a one.
Captain Yorke: Well, they're down there, sir... among the rocks.
Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: Have you seen 'em, Captain?
Captain Yorke: I don't have to - I know.
Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: How?
Captain Yorke: 'Cause if I were Cochise, that's where I'd take up position.
Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: And that dust cloud beyond?
Captain Yorke: It's an Apache trick. Probably squaws and children draggin' mesquite.
Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: [dubious, sarcastically] Very ingenious, Captain. You make me suspect your Cochise has studied under ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in I'm King Kong!: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Sweet Genevieve
(uncredited)
Music by Henry Tucker
Lyrics by George Cooper
Performed by Dick Foran
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Most Powerful of Ford's 'Cavalry' Trilogy...
24 September 2003 | by (Las Vegas, Nevada) – See all my reviews

John Ford's FORT APACHE is the first of a three-film cycle chronicling the exploits of the U.S. Cavalry in the settling of the West, but it is far more than that; as a thinly-disguised reworking of the George Armstrong Custer story, it provides insight about a leader so blinded by his own ambition and ego that his actions nearly wipes out his command, and would have to be 'covered-up' by an Army that always protects its 'own'. Ironically, in whitewashing his actions, he becomes a national hero, giving him, posthumously, the attention he'd craved. The story is a powerful one, and in the hands of a top-notch cast, FORT APACHE is as timely today as when it was first released.

Henry Fonda's Lt.Col. Owen Thursday is a complex, driven man, a martinet who considers his transfer to the western outpost as a slap in the face by the War Department. Accompanied by his daughter, Philadelphia (a grown-up and vivacious Shirley Temple), he arrives at Fort Apache early, and discovers the welcoming festivities are not for him, but for the return of the son of Sgt.Major O'Rourke (Ward Bond), a new second lieutenant, fresh from West Point. The younger O'Rourke, portrayed by John Agar, and Philadelphia are immediately attracted to one another (they were married, off screen), but, displaying a 'class' snobbery, Col. Thursday nixes any chance of an officer's daughter and an enlisted man's son (even if he is an officer) having a romance.

As the new commander, Thursday shows an insensitivity to both his own men (he rebukes former commander Capt. Collingwood, played by George O'Brien, in front of the other officers), and the intellectual and tactical skills of the Indians (drawing the ire of John Wayne, as Capt. Kirby York). He does convince York that he is interested in parlaying with Cochise, however, and soon York, whom the chief respects, is on his way to Mexico, to get him to cross the border for a meeting between the two leaders and the corrupt Indian agent (Grant Withers) whose actions had led to the current insurrection.

Ultimately, Cochise does cross the Rio Grande, and Thursday reveals his true plan; to demand a return to the reservation, or face annihilation. York feels betrayed, and warns Thursday that he's setting himself up for a massacre, especially as the commander intends to bring his entire command to the meeting. Thursday simply sneers at his warning, sarcastically suggesting that York is crediting Cochise as being as brilliant as Napoleon.

The meeting is brief, with Thursday showing no respect, and, sure enough, ends disastrously. Cochise, prepared for a potential betrayal, has lined the canyon walls beyond the meeting place with hundreds of sharpshooters, and, despite York's warnings (leading to his being branded by Thursday a 'coward', and ordered to remain with a rear guard), the Colonel leads his command in a charge, into the canyon...

In an unsympathetic role, Henry Fonda is marvelous, actually making Col. Thursday believable, if not likable. John Wayne, despite star billing, is actually secondary, plot-wise, but is excellent as the officer who learns, finally, what it means to command, by watching the wounded Thursday return to his command, and face certain death.

Major subplots of all three 'Cavalry' films would be devoted to Sergeants, and FORT APACHE offers four truly memorable ones, in Bond, Pedro Armendariz, Victor McLaglen, and Dick Foran.

FORT APACHE is a film that could easily stand alone as a superb drama; as the first of the trilogy, it set a high standard, and is considered by most critics as the finest of the three films.

It is unforgettable!




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