Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros.
Deep into the territory of the great Apache chief, Cochise, the demoted Civil War general, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday, reports for duty as a commanding officer at the remote U.S. cavalry outpost known as Fort Apache, along with his daughter, Philadelphia. There, the arrogant commander will soon lock horns with the realistic and sensible second-in-command, Captain Kirby York, who, as an expert in the local Apaches, disagrees with Thursday who wants to make a name for himself in the Arizona frontier. In the end, is it wise to engage in battle when personal glory is all you seek? Written by
Although they would work together on 11 pictures, John Ford and Frank Nugent did not establish the same close relationship Ford had with Dudley Nichols, nor did Ford have the same level of respect for Nugent, even though Nugent married Ford's daughter. "Once the script is finished, the writer had better keep out of his way," Nugent said. "The finished picture is always Ford's, never the writer's." Nevertheless, Ford was lucky to receive both Nugent's and Merian C. Cooper's contributions to the project. According to screenwriter Philip Dunne, who worked with Ford on How Green Was My Valley (1941), "Ford doesn't really understand scripts. He has no story sense. He has a great sense of scenes. But Ford should never be the producer of his pictures." See more »
At 21 minute, Colonel Thursday read the orders from the war department. Signed by William B Stafford Secretary of War. There has never been a William B Stafford Secretary of War. The closest was Edwin M. Stanton from January 20, 1862 to May 28, 1868. See more »
[Lt. O'Rourke is being introduced to Philadelphia Thursday]
First Sgt. Festus Mulcahy:
Ma'am, this is my godson, "Leftenant" O'Rourke. Many's the time he's come to me with a wet nose.
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"Fort Apache" is the movie of respect. John Ford's message seems to be
everybody deserves respect. First of all, as natural in Ford's poetic
ideology, the simple, low-class horse soldiers, with their sense of
community, their sober courage, their stoic dedication to duty. Also the
veteran officers Capt. York (John Wayne) and Capt. Collingwood (George O'
Brien) share these plain but strong feelings with lower ranks, and have a
deep friendship towards them. Then the Indians, here the Apaches, are
represented as noble, brave, fair warriors, forced to war only by patent
injustice. Important is the scene in the finale, when the winning Apaches
nobly spare John Wayne and the other soldiers of the supply lines.
But Ford in not yet satisfied: even the arrogant, dumb, haughty colonel
Thursday (Henry Fonda) deserves respect. His problem is that he's stupid,
that's all. Actually, Thursday is a pathetic figure: he is the unique
miserable character in the film, mainly because he is alone, an out-cast
the tight community of other soldiers. Moreover he is frustrated in his
ambitions of career, and he is, in some sense, constantly humiliated in
pride by the veterans of Fort Apache. For instance, Thursday arrogantly
wonders why the son of Sgt. O' Rourke (Ward Bond) was admitted to become
officer; but he readily realizes that the sergeant got this privilege from
his outstandingly heroic actions on the battle-field, something that
Thursday probably had always dreamed and never got. The priceless
of the veteran officers is always understated by Thursday, in a somewhat
childish, whimsical way. But perhaps he has a guess that he's wrong, and
reaction is to close himself into an armour of upper-class-pride, scorning
the love of her daughter for the sergeant's son.
However, the movie develops through magnificent images of the Monument
Valley, subtle psychological touches, sense of humor, moments of emotion,
action, suspense. Then we get to a great scene that proves how cinema can
deep art. The horse soldiers are ready for the final attack; everybody is
perfectly conscious that they will be slaughtered by the Apaches...
everybody but the dumb colonel. They accept their fate quietly: well,
job is to face death, possibly to die in the most idiotic way, why not?
seems nonsense nowadays, but here Ford gives us a perfect representation
the spirit of the Nineteenth Century. Then, suddenly, Thursday accuses
of cowardice and commands him to the supply line, together with the
reluctant Lt. O' Rourke (John Agar). Then York, in a plain way, informs
O' Rourke that his son will not participate to the suicide attack. These
news immediately raise the spirits of the soldiers: not caring their own
deaths, they roar an hurrah. The boy (their son) is safe, he will marry
girl, they will have children, the life will continue. Here Ford touches
extremely profound chord, something even deeper than our human souls, the
core of our animal essence. Here we have the instinct of the mammal which
offers itself to the predator, in order to save its puppies.
The remainder of the finale, with the ambush and the partial redemption of
Thursday, is superbly filmed and crowns a timeless masterpiece of cinema:
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