Sunday, October 7, 2012
|6:00 p.m.||Fort Apache|
John Ford (U.S., 1948)
J. Hoberman presents an overview of his book An Army of Phantoms. A signing of the new paperback edition follows the screening.
The first entry in John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, Fort Apache sets the nineteenth-century war against the Indians within the sensibility of post-WW II combat. Henry Fonda puts in a rigidly correct performance as Colonel Owen Thursday, a disgruntled disciplinarian resentful that he should be sent to a remote western fort. John Wayne swaggers as the veteran Indian-fighter, Kirby York. Thursday, a resolute racist, disdains the “breech-clad savages,” but also discounts their threat when he launches a near-suicidal campaign against them. Ironically, York becomes the moral center of the film as the rustic soldier who both fears and respects the Indians. “Fort Apache,” writes Hoberman, “not only established a template for its own genre, but also revised the Western with notions of racial tolerance…and even provided an analogue of sorts to what was then happening at the Democratic convention, where Southern segregation was under attack.” Exhibiting a fascination for a postatomic Southwestern landscape, Fort Apache also “merges the home front and the perimeter,” where total vigilance anticipates total war. But who knows where it will occur: in the next suburb replacing the last frontier?
• Written by Frank S. Nugent. Photographed by Archie Stout. With John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Ward Bond. (127 mins, B&W, 35mm, From the Library of Congress, permission Warner Bros.)
Total running time: 127 mins, plus 30-minute lecture