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
John Ford hired two doctors from Los Angeles to oversee his 600-person crew at Monument Valley, where the company worked in 135-degree heat. See more »
In the final cavalry charge Capt. Collingwood (George O'Brian) loses his hat twice. Then once the regiment is in the 'last stand depression,' Collingwood can be seen rallying the survivors, wearing his hat. When Col. Thursday joins them, he is greeted by Collingwood, hat less once more. See more »
[speaking of Col. Thursday]
But what of the men who died with him? What of Collingworth and...
Oh, of course, Collingwood.
That's the ironic part of it. We always remember the Thursdays, but the others are forgotten.
You're wrong there. They aren't forgotten because they haven't died. They're living - right out there.
[points out the window]
Collingwood and the rest. And they'll keep on living as long as the regiment lives. The pay is thirteen dollars a month; their diet: beans and ...
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This beautifully shot western—the first in John Ford's so-called Cavalry Trilogy—about a fatuous lieutenant (Henry Fonda) whose hubris seriously endangers an isolated frontier outpost, grabbed me by the throat in its quietly scathing indictment of military leaders who needlessly risk the lives of their soldiers to win vague notions of heroism for posterity.
Fonda's Lieutenant Colonel Thursday seems an obvious stand-in for General Custer and the film, despite its reputation, seems less derogatory toward Native Americans than keen to extol the virtues of honorable combat agreed upon between two forthright leaders. Note the penultimate scene, occurring after the massacre, in which Wayne, Thursday's successor, wearily addresses reporters eager to talk about Thursday's "legacy." A glossy portrait of the lieutenant lords over the room. As Wayne discusses Thursday's merits, he looks out fondly at his battalion, their reflections superimposed over Wayne's gaze. This film is not anti-war, rather pro-service and pro-battle. It is not, however, supportive of egregious affronts to the sanctity of human life; a rather interesting contra-distinction, to be sure.
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