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Legendary director John Ford's final film involving seven dedicated missionary women in China circa 1935 trying to protect themselves from the advances of a Mongolian barbaric warlord and his cut-throat gang of warriors.
John Ford weaves three "Judge Priest" stories together to form a good- natured exploration of honour and small-town politics in the South around the turn of the century. Judge William Priest is involved variously in revealing the real identity of Lucy Lake, reliving his Civil War memories, preventing the lynching of a youth and contesting the elections with Yankee Horace K. Maydew. Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
Ford's own personal favourite - and a masterpiece.
A masterpiece and reputedly John Ford's personal favourite from among his own movies. The sentimentality quotient is unnaturally high, even by Ford's standards and the racial stereotypes are appalling but this is still one of the cinema's greatest pieces of folk-art. It speaks of an American South about as realistic as the Ireland of "The Quiet Man" or "The Rising of the Moon", (another great, under-rated Ford film), where the old guard still cling to memories of a hopelessly romantic past, where blacks are treated 'honourably', even if their sole purpose is to play the banjo and the harmonica and in the name of the eponymous actor to 'Stepin Fetchit'.
By today's standards the film is anything but PC but it has an innocence that transcends its stereotypes and Ford handles the set pieces magnificently. In particular, the funeral of the 'fallen woman', (and mother of the heroine), that ends the film is deeply moving and is among the high points of Ford's work. The film itself is a remake of Ford's earlier "Judge Priest" with Charles Winninger in the role made famous by Will Rogers, but this is altogether superior.
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