Film Review – MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)

Related imageMY DARLING CLEMENTINE (USA, 1946) *****
      Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Release Date: 16 October 1946 (USA), November 1946 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 April–mid June 1946; Running Time: 97m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: John Ford; Writer: Samuel G. Engel, Winston Miller (based on a story by Sam Hellman and a book by Stuart N. Lake); Producer: Samuel G. Engel; Director of Photography: Joseph MacDonald; Music Composer: Cyril J. Mockridge; Film Editor: Dorothy Spencer; Art Director: James Basevi, Lyle R. Wheeler; Set Decorator: Thomas Little; Costumes: René Hubert; Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: Eugene Grossman, Roger Heman Sr.
      Cast: Henry Fonda (Wyatt Earp), Linda Darnell (Chihuahua), Victor Mature (Doc Holliday), Cathy Downs (Clementine Carter), Walter Brennan (Old Man Clanton), Tim Holt (Virgil Earp), Ward Bond (Morgan Earp), Alan Mowbray (Granville Thorndyke), John Ireland (Billy Clanton), Roy Roberts (Mayor), Jane Darwell (Kate Nelson), Grant Withers (Ike Clanton), J. Farrell MacDonald (Mac the Barman), Russell Simpson (John Simpson).
      Synopsis: Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan and Virgil ride into Tombstone and leave brother James in charge of their cattle herd. On their return, they find their cattle stolen and James dead. Wyatt takes on the job of town marshal, making his brothers deputies, and vows to stay in Tombstone until James’ killers are found. He soon runs into the brooding, coughing, hard-drinking Doc Holliday as well as the sullen and vicious Clanton clan.
      Comment: The oft-told tale of the gunfight at the OK Corral was never better told than in John Ford’s moody classic. Fonda is superb as Wyatt Earp, whether getting across the lawman’s assuredness as a town marshal or his awkwardness with the opposite sex. Mature may seem at times a little overwrought as Doc Holliday, but his performance is also memorable nonetheless. Darnell also scores as the saloon girl who is Holliday’s woman. Downs actually plays the titles role as Holliday’s long last love from out East who has come to town to win him back. Brennan makes for an effective villain as the head of the Clanton clan Technical attributes are top-notch too. MacDonald’s high contrast black-and-white photography captures the mood perfectly – notably in the night-time scenes and during the stormy opening. Ford is at the top of his game directing his cast and crew to deliver a wonderful Western that certainly bears repeat viewings.
      Notes: Songs include: “Ten Thousand Cattle,” traditional, arranged by Fred K. Huffer; “Oh, My Darling Clementine,” music and lyrics by Percy Montrose; and “The First Kiss Is Always the Best, from Under a Broad Sombrero,” composers undetermined. An alternate preview version of this film exists. It was about 8m longer with minor variations throughout and a slightly different ending. Both this archival 103m version and the 97m release version are included on the Fox DVD.

Film Review – THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962)

Image result for the man who shot liberty valanceMan Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962; USA; B&W; 123m) ****½  d. John Ford; w. James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Cyril J. Mockridge.  Cast: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Jeanette Nolan, John Carradine, John Qualen, Ken Murray, Willis Bouchey, Carleton Young, Woody Strode, Denver Pyle. A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed. Ford’s last great Western is dominated by three strong central performances. Wayne represents the old-west values, whilst Stewart stands for the civilisation of law and order. Marvin’s outlaw stands in the middle as the evil which must be dealt with. Meanwhile, Miles must decide whether her heart lies with Wayne or Stewart. Rich in detail with a strong script and boisterous performances from a quality supporting cast and sumptuously shot in black and white by veteran cinematographer Clothier. In 2007, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Based on the story by Dorothy M. Johnson. [U]

Film Review – THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959)

Image result for the horse soldiers 1959Horse Soldiers, The (1959; USA; DeLuxe; 115m) ***½  d. John Ford; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin; ph. William H. Clothier; m. David Buttolph.  Cast: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Strother Martin, Hoot Gibson, Anna Lee, Russell Simpson, Carleton Young, Ken Curtis, Judson Pratt, Willis Bouchey, Bing Russell, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Solid Civil-War Western sees Cavalry Colonel Wayne and army medic Holden sparring with their ideals as rebel hostage Towers watches over and gradually warms to Wayne. Ford directs efficiently, handling the action scenes and spectacle with his usual aplomb. Whilst not amongst Ford-Wayne’s classics, this is still a sturdy character study. Loosely based on Harold Sinclair’s 1956 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on the historic 17-day Grierson’s Raid and Battle of Newton’s Station in Mississippi during the Civil War. [PG]

Film Review – THE SEARCHERS (1956)

Image result for the searchers 1956Searchers, The (1956; USA; Technicolor; 119m) *****  d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Vera Miles, John Qualen, Harry Carey Jr., Patrick Wayne, Henry Brandon, Antonio Moreno, Lana Wood, Olive Carey, Hank Worden, Pippa Scott, Ken Curtis. As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable. Wayne gives a career-best performance as embittered ex-soldier in this truly memorable Western that rightly belongs with the very best of the genre. Gorgeously photographed by Hoch with dramatic Steiner score. Wonderful support cast with Bond notable as Texas Ranger on trail of rampaging Commanches. Ford’s best work as director with bookend shots becoming part of movie legend.  Lana Wood played young Debbie Edwards and Natalie Wood, who was Lana’s older sister by eight years, played teenaged Debbie Edwards. Film debut of Pippa Scott. Based on the novel by Alan LeMay. [PG]

Film Review – RIO GRANDE (1950)

Rio Grande (1950; USA; B&W; 105m) ***½  d. John Ford; w. James Kevin McGuinness; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Victor Young.  Cast: John Wayne, Claude Jarman Jr., Ben Johnson, Maureen O’Hara, Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, J. Carrol Naish, Victor McLaglen, Grant Withers, Patrick Wayne, Steve Pendleton, Alberto Morin, Stan Jones. A Union officer is in charge of an outpost on the Rio Grande in which he is in charge of training of new recruits one of which is his son whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Third of the Wayne/Ford “Cavalry Trilogy” is probably the least, but still vastly entertaining. Story unfolds at a leisurely pace (including two or three musical interludes) with Wayne and O’Hara sparking a strong chemistry in their first of five outings together. McLaglen offers his familiar light relief as heavy-drinking sergeant. Extensive use of Mohave Valley locations. Based on a story by James Warner Bellah. Also available in a computer colourised version. [U]

Film Review – SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949)

Related imageShe Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ****  d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent, Laurence Stallings, James Warner Bellah; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Richard Hageman.  Cast: John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Harry Carey Jr., Mildred Natwick, Paul Fix, George O’Brien, Arthur Shields, Michael Dugan, Noble Johnson, Fred Graham, Tom Tyler, Jack Pennick. A US Cavalry Captain, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack. Encumbered by women who must be evacuated, Brittles finds his mission imperilled. Gloriously shot (Hoch’s colour photography rightly won an Oscar) second film in Ford’s celebrated Cavalry Trilogy is a thoroughly entertaining account of the last few days active service of respected Captain Wayne. The production values are high and great use is made of the Monument Valley location. Wayne is in top form in a role older than his years. Johnson also shines as unassuming sergeant, whilst McLaglen adds his usual high spirits to the proceedings. Followed by RIO GRANDE (1950). [PG]

Film Review – 3 GODFATHERS (1948)

Image result for 3 godfathers3 Godfathers (1948; USA; Technicolor; 106m) ****  d. John Ford; w. Laurence Stallings, Frank S. Nugent, Peter B. Kyne; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Richard Hageman.  Cast: John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond, Mae Marsh, Jane Darwell, Ben Johnson, Mildred Natwick, Guy Kibbee, Dorothy Ford, Charles Halton, Hank Worden, Jack Pennick, Fred Libby, Michael Dugan. Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert. Superbly filmed story with obvious religious overtones, which only become heavy-handed in the story’s finale. Ford gets superb performances from his actors – notably as Wayne, Armendariz and Carey, Jr. are tracked across unforgiving terrain by Bond and his posse. Wonderful photography by Hoch. Ford had previously directed a silent film version of the same story, called MARKED MEN (1919) – no prints of this is known to be in existence. [PG]

Film Review – FORT APACHE (1948)

Image result for fort apache 1948Fort Apache (1948; USA; B&W; 125m) ****  d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent; ph. Archie Stout; m. Richard Hageman.  Cast: Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Ward Bond, John Agar, George O’Brien, Shirley Temple, Irene Rich, Victor McLaglen, Anna Lee, Pedro Armendariz, Dick Foran, Guy Kibbee, Grant Withers, Jack Pennick, Mae Marsh. At Fort Apache, an honourable 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. Fonda is excellent as proud, but flawed commander of cavalry regiment in tale inspired by the legend of General Custer. Wayne is also on top form as the captain whose experience is overlooked by the by-the-book approach of his superior. Extensive use of Monument Valley locations. Agar’s debut. Suggested by the story “Massacre” by James Warner Bellah. First of Ford’s loose cavalry trilogy followed by SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) and RIO GRANDE (1950). [U]

Film Review – THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945)

Image result for they were expendable 1945They Were Expendable (1945; USA; B&W; 135m) ****  d. John Ford; w. Frank Wead, Jan Lustig; ph. Joseph H. August; m. Herbert Stothart.  Cast: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson, Paul Langton, Leon Ames, Cameron Mitchell, Donald Curtis, Arthur Walsh, Jeff York, Jack Pennick, Murray Alper, Harry Tenbrook. A dramatised account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defence of the Philippines in World War II. Highly regarded war film is bolstered by great photography and well-shot action sequences. Story is really just a slice of life during the conflict in the western Pacific. Montgomery is excellent as PT-boat commander commanding respect from his crew. Love interest angle between Wayne and Reed is left unresolved, thereby avoiding Hollywood conventions and sentiment and adding to the realism. Montgomery was a real-life PT skipper in World War 2. Based on the book by William L. White. [PG]

Film Review – STAGECOACH (1939)

Image result for stagecoach 1939Stagecoach (1939; USA; B&W; 96m) ****½  d. John Ford; w. Dudley Nichols, Ernest Haycox; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Gerard Carbonara.  Cast: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell, Donald Meek, George Bancroft, Berton Churchill, Tim Holt, Tom Tyler, Louise Platt, Yakima Canutt, Si Jenks, Chris-Pin Martin, Merrill McCormick. A group of people travelling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo and learn something about each other in the process. Highly influential western became the first classic of its genre by taking it from low-budget B-picture fillers to something with more substance and no little art. Whilst some of the set pieces and characterisations may now seem overly familiar, it must not be forgotten that this was the film that started it all. Wayne became a star following his imposing performance as the Ringo Kid and Trevor is his equal as a woman trying to escape her past. There is top-class support from Carradine as a dignified gambler with a violent past and Mitchell as a drunk doctor. Spectacular stunt chase sequences and a moodily shot showdown finale add to what is a winning mix. Ford handles the story and characters with his trademark confidence. Won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mitchell) and Best Music (adapted from folk songs by Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken). Also available in a computer-colourised version. Remade in 1966 and again for TV in 1986. [U]