Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Pedro Armendariz, Ward Bond, George O'Brien, Victor McLaglen, Anna Lee, Irene Rich, Dick Foran, Guy Kibbee, Grant Withers, Jack Pennick, Ray Hyke, Movita, Miguel Inclan, Mary Gordon, Philip Kieffer, Mae Marsh, Hank Worden, John Agar
Written by: Frank S. Nugent, based on a story by James Warner Bellah
Directed by: John Ford
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 125
Date: 03/27/1948

Fort Apache (1948)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Send in the Cavalry

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Ford's Fort Apache is an odd film, consisting more of sidetracks than of an actual story, but it showed a new restlessness in Ford, and a willingness to question the norm (and foreshadowing the themes of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).

John Wayne stars as cheerful horse soldier Captain Kirby York, and Henry Fonda as bitter West Point officer, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday. (He's so nasty that he can be hard to take.) The adorable teenage Shirley Temple co-stars as Fonda's daughter Philadelphia. Thursday is the wrong-headed authority figure, determined to wage war with the Indians, despite York's warnings. John Agar is particularly awful as Temple's love interest, but at least Ford old-timers Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen are also on hand.

Former New York Times film critic Frank S. Nugent wrote the screenplay, kicking off a long-standing partnership with Ford. It is, of course, the first of Ford's celebrated "Cavalry Trilogy," which also includes She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950). Warner Home Video released it on Blu-Ray in 2012.

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