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Fort Apache (1948)

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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.

Director:

John Ford

Writers:

Frank S. Nugent (screenplay), James Warner Bellah (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:
John Wayne ... Capt. Kirby York
Henry Fonda ... Lt. Col. Owen Thursday
Shirley Temple ... Philadelphia Thursday
Pedro Armendáriz ... Sgt. Beaufort (as Pedro Armendariz)
Ward Bond ... Sgt. Maj. Michael O'Rourke
George O'Brien ... Capt. Sam Collingwood
Victor McLaglen ... Sgt. Festus Mulcahy
Anna Lee ... Mrs. Emily Collingwood
Irene Rich ... Mrs. Mary O'Rourke
Dick Foran ... Sgt. Quincannon
Guy Kibbee ... Capt. Dr. Wilkens
Grant Withers ... Silas Meacham
Jack Pennick Jack Pennick ... Sgt. Daniel Schattuck
Ray Hyke Ray Hyke ... Lt. Gates
Movita ... Guadalupe
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Storyline

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 Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

John Ford's Masterpiece of the Frontier!


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

14 June 1948 (Brazil) See more »

Also Known As:

War Party See more »

Filming Locations:

Monument Valley, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Argosy Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During the American occupation of Japan after World War II, under regulations which were designed to censor Japanese films which glorified war or violence,a film made by the Americans themselves, Fort Apache , was banned for those reasons. See more »

Goofs

When the new recruits are assembled for the second time (in uniform) the two closest to the camera appear to be wearing denim jeans or Levis. Levis were not available to the U.S. Cavalry at the time of the film's period in history. See more »

Quotes

Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: Captain Yorke, send a wagon and a detail to repair the wires and bring back the bodies.
Captain Yorke: Yes, sir. Sergeant Major, assemble a platoon from A Troop...
Lt. Col. Thursday: A platoon? I said a detail, Captain: an officer and four men.
Captain Yorke: The apaches may still be around, sir...
Lt. Col. Thursday: I'm running a command not a debating society, Captain Yorke.
Captain Yorke: A detail of four men. I will be in command...
Lt. Col. Thursday: Mr. O'Rourke will be in command.
Captain Yorke: Mr. O'Rourke in command. Have them take sixty rounds of carbine ammunition per man...
Lt. Col. Owen Thursday: That's a lot of ...
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

French version is cut to 108 minutes. See more »


Soundtracks

The Regular Army O
(uncredited)
Music by David Braham
Lyrics by Edward Hart
[Sung by soldiers after Sweet Genevieve.]
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Fonda And Wayne Clash In John Ford Cavalry Pic
13 January 1999 | by stryker-5See all my reviews

Lieutenant-Colonel Owen Thursday arrives at a frontier fort to take up his new command. His harsh, unbending philosophy of soldiering creates something of a stir in the regiment. His pretty daughter Philadelphia causes a rather different commotion.

The headstrong commander refuses to listen to the advice of his loyal captain, Kirby York, who knows frontier life and enjoys a rapport with the indian chiefs. The two officers are both strong characters, and their differing ideas inevitably lead to a clash.

Cochise and his braves are willing to accommodate the white man so long as their concerns are handled with diplomacy. Unfortunately, the high-handed approach of Lieutenant-Colonel Thursday cause relations to deteriorate, and conflict ensues.

In the course of the 1940's and 50's, director John Ford returned repeatedly to this subject-matter, John Wayne in Monument Valley with the US cavalry, fighting redskins and singing Irish folksongs. The stirring anthem in this movie is "The Girl I Left Behind Me", sung as the regiment rides out in full panoply to meet Cochise - although "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" gets an airing, too.

The cavalry regiment itself is a protagonist in the story, regarded as a living entity by its members. When Captain York is promoted to Colonel and commands the regiment, he makes a powerful speech stressing the continuity and tradition which have made the regiment great. The sense of hierarchy is strong. This is a world of order in which army regulations govern even the way an officer presents his calling-card. Soldiers can quote the regulations by heart. This well-regulated military force will, we feel, impose civilisation on this wild frontier.

Examples of the regiment's rigid code keep recurring. The NCOs' dance has its own elaborate protocol, which not even Colonel Thursday dares to flout. Feelings over the O'Rourke marriage reach boiling-point, but everyone adheres to the rules of military courtesy. Washington's Birthday is celebrated as a regimental occasion. The Irish sergeants are all related by blood and marriage, and as their exuberant fraternal greetings subside, military discipline asserts itself effortlessly.

"I'm not a martinet," protests Colonel Thursday, the most extreme martinet imaginable. He is inflexible in his enforcement of the military code, and too stubborn and wrongheaded to listen to the advice of his officers, who are experienced frontier campaigners. He completely misses the presence of Cochise's war party because he has no combat experience and doesn't know to watch the skyline for dust clouds. In addition, Thursday is a terrible snob. He calls young Michael O'Rourke a 'savage' for a perceived laxity of discipline, and sets his face against the marriage of Michael and Philadelphia because of "the barrier between your class and mine". He is dismayed that the son of a sergeant should have passed through West Point, and needlessly offends Cochise by talking down to him.

And yet even Owen Thursday has a human side. We gather that there is some personal secret between him and Captain Collingwood, and we almost smile when the armchair collapses under him. Most tellingly, Thursday returns to the beleaguered redoubt after he has been rescued. He redeems himself by rejoining his soldiers in the thick of the fighting.

When young Philadelphia Thursday (Shirley Temple) studies Michael O'Rourke in her purse mirror, we know that these two will be the love interest. Also, as this incident illustrates, the womenfolk of Fort Apache tend to run the show in this masculine enclave. The Thursday residence is somewhat joyless, especially when compared with Aunt Emily's cosy quarters. The women brush aside the colonel's seniority and call in Mrs. O'Rourke to refurnish the place. In one of the film's good jokes, no fewer than eight Mrs. O'Rourkes answer the call. There is a touching scene when the regiment moves out and the women are left together. Mrs. Collingwood is torn, because her husband has his safe posting back east and needn't go into battle, but she knows how important it is for him to prove his courage. The womenfolk urge her to call him back, but she reluctantly allows him to ride out.

John Ford laced many of his films with Irish humour, and "Fort Apache" is no exception. The ubiquitous Victor McLaglen plays Sergeant Festus Mulcahy, and he and the O'Rourkes run the fort - that is, whenever they are not in the jailhouse on charges of drinking and brawling. Outrageously, Mulcahy promotes a raw recruit to corporal, simply because he's Irish. Quincannon virtually lives in the jailhouse, but he has a fine tenor voice, so he is released from custody in order to serenade the young lovers with his rendition of "Genevieve". When the dishonest trader Meacham has his whisky stock confiscated and marked for destruction, the sad faces of the sergeants make a comical picture, and the subsequent 'destruction' is even funnier.

Ford is a master of composition. York rides out to parley with Cochise and is engrossed in dialogue, leaving Thursday stranded and excluded. We hear the thunder of hooves offscreen before we see the charge, and its impact is magnified accordingly. In the sequence where York and Beaufort ride to negotiate with Cochise, the screen is filled with stunning images of rock and sky. The charging cavalry are cleverly 'lost' in their own dust, which closes behind them like a curtain, ending the scene.

Wayne is curiously subdued in this film. This is partly because he plays a conscientious subordinate, and partly because the confrontation with Fonda is eclipsed by other plot developments.


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