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In Revolutionary America, Gil Martin takes his new wife Lana back to his farm in upstate New York. The area is remote and a distance from the fort but they are happy living in their one room cabin. With the declaration of independence, the settlers soon find themselves at war with the British and their Indian allies. Their farm is burned out and the Martins take work with Sarah McKlennar. The war continues however as the Martins try to make a new life.Written by
The battle so vividly described by Gil Martin (Henry Fonda) is the bloody Battle of Oriskany, which had one of the highest casualty rates of any battle in the war. It took place on August 6, 1777, and involved only North American troops--Tory, Patriot and Indian--and was part of what became the overall Battle of Saratoga, as the Tory and Indian troops were commanded by a subordinate of Gen. "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, who was wounded in the battle, did not receive adequate medical attention. His leg became infected and he died ten days later from blood loss after amputation on August 16. He was 49. Despite Gil's claim that the colonials gave them a "licking," the Tories and Indians suffered only 150 casualties while the Patriots sustained 450. See more »
At the end of the movie, the characters are shown seeing the stars and stripes for the first time. In fact, the national flag was adopted in June 1777 and Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown was in October 1781, at which point, American forces had been using the flag for more than 4 years. See more »
Other comments on this film quite well echo my sentiments: John Ford once again exhibits his mastery of the medium, with a minimum of the sentimentality to which he sometimes succumbed; a very young and handsome Henry Fonda wonderfully embodies an ordinary man virtually forced to perform feats of extraordinary heroism; Claudette Colbert, although she seems out of her usually sophisticated element, really cannot be faulted, especially when one considers the Hollywoodized glamor of her makeup and costuming; and Edna May Oliver, heading Ford's customarily astutely chosen supporting cast, almost steals the picture.
But, to my eyes, it is the unusually beautiful Technicolor cinematography by Bert Glennon and Ray Rennahan (the latter being the credited cinematographer on the first feature-length film in three-strip Technicolor, 1935's "Becky Sharp") who deserve the most accolades. Their work simply glows and has that special crispness characteristic of certain early Technicolor films (many of which bore the Twentieth Century Fox label, as it happens.) No doubt, working on outdoor locations with the cumbersome equipment and lighting requirements involved in the use of the Technicolor process at that time, not to mention the lengendarily dictatorial control of the Technicolor Corporation's czarina, Madame (Natalie) Kalmus, and her frequent associate, Henri Jaffa, Messrs. Glennon and Rennahan managed to accomplish one of 1939's finest achievements in color cinematography. With Alfred Newman's fine musical score and all of the other first-class production values lavished on this stirring tale, "Drums Along the Mohawk" deserves a place among the best recreations of those remarkable personal stories that were part of this newly emerging nation.
I am not aware if the available VHS tape transfer does justice to the prints struck from the original negative, but American Movie Classics occasionally shows this title (mercilessly chopped up with endless commercials, etc., as is now their wont) in a version that makes one realize why the invention of color television broadcasting just had to happen!
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