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The Lost Patrol began Ford's association with producer Merian C. Cooper, a partnership that would lead to the independent production company Argosy and the making of such fine, ultrapersonal films as The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and Ford's celebrated cavalry trilogy. The story, by Philip MacDonald, concerns a handful of British soldiers cornered at an oasis in the Mesopotamian Desert (now Iraq) during World War I and slowly decimated by an unseen enemy. The strong visuals--baking sun, the undulating vastness of the dunes, the drift of ghostly mirages--befit a crucible of character-testing, with an unnamed Sergeant (Victor McLaglen) striving to keep at least one man alive as desperation, madness, and implacable Arab snipers take their toll. This DVD release restores six minutes of footage cut for a 1949 rerelease and rarely seen since.
Ford won the first of his four best-director Oscars for The Informer, an intense tale of "one night in strife-torn Dublin, 1922" when a slow-witted I.R.A. strongman named Gypo Nolan sells out his best friend for 20 British pounds. On a budget that obliged him to obscure canvas sets with deep shadows and a persistent fog that underscores Gypo's mental and spiritual confusion, Ford created a visual world akin to the German Expressionist classics of the 1920s. But the film's inventive use of sound and an ambitious music score (by Max Steiner) commingling leitmotifs for half a dozen key characters also encouraged '30s critics to hail it as the first classic of the sound era. That was overstating it (and more than a little amnesiac on the critics' part!). Overstated, too, was Ford's relentless Christ symbolism paralleling Gypo's betrayal to that of Judas. Still, Victor McLaglen's portrayal of the title character remains a triumph (McLaglen won an Oscar as well), and the film abounds in brilliant strokes: the silhouette of a British soldier shining his flashlight on the wanted poster of Gypo's friend, while Gypo lurks just outside the beam; the giant Nolan forever knocking his head on hanging signs or seeming to be crushed by low ceilings; the cacophony of cries and gunfire, and then crashing silence, as the Black and Tan raid the I.R.A. rebel's home. Initially overrated, then relegated to museum status, The Informer awaits rediscovery as a dynamic motion picture.
The John Ford Collection includes one more mid-'30s RKO endeavor, Mary of Scotland (1936). Although handsome, this adaptation of a Maxwell Anderson blank-verse play about Queen Elizabeth's northern rival never finds credible footing as a movie. Andrew Sarris is dead right in lamenting Ford's version of Mary, Queen of Scots, as "a madonna of the Scottish moors"--Katharine Hepburn, inevitably. The most interesting thing about the production is the offscreen story, that Ford and Hepburn fell passionately in love, yet (perhaps) resisted becoming lovers.
From there we leap to the 1960s and two Westerns made under the aegis of Warner Bros. (Warner now owns the RKO library, hence this rather arbitrary set.) Sergeant Rutledge (1960) has markedly improved with age, with what once seemed creaky dramaturgy now playing as bold stylization. Using a jagged flashback structure occasioned by a court-martial at a Southwest outpost, Ford took an unflinching look at the legacy of race in America. The then-unknown black actor Woody Strode has a showcase role as a magnificent "Buffalo soldier" accused of the rape-murder of his commanding officer's blond, white daughter and the murder of the commandant himself. Unfortunately, Ford's once-masterly handling of character actors had grown lax, and he indulged some tedious bombast from Willis Bouchey and Carleton Young as the presiding judge and prosecutor, respectively; and Jeffrey Hunter, however effective in The Searchers, made a weak protagonist as Rutledge's defense counsel. But the veteran cameraman Bert Glennon almost winds things back to Stagecoach days, occasionally turning the film's Technicolor to very nearly black and white.
Another debt to race relations is addressed in Cheyenne Autumn (1964), a beautiful title to grace John Ford's final Western. The film has moments of grandeur as Ford attempts at long last to "tell the story from the Indians' point of view," and it's a pleasure to report that William H. Clothier's majestic Technicolor compositions have been restored to their Panavision dimensions on the DVD. Ford is unambiguously supportive of the Cheyennes' resolve to bolt their reservation in the desert Southwest and trek north to their ancestral lands. By contrast, most of white society, the military, the bureaucracy, and the sensationalist press are portrayed as insensitive, foolish, or hateful. However, the Cheyenne are nobly wooden, with all key roles played by non-Indians: Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland, Sal Mineo, Victor Jory, and Dolores Del Rio (breathtakingly beautiful as ever). As for point of view, it's sympathetic cavalry officer Richard Widmark and Quaker missionary Carroll Baker through whose eyes most of the epic narrative unfolds. --Richard T. Jameson
This is certainly not the definitive John Ford Collection but it has a couple of goodies that make it worthwhile. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Chris B
This is just great stuff. Great drama and a great cast. You can see how much silent director FW Murnau influenced Ford the film maker. Read morePublished 10 months ago by ANOTHERGUY
Christmas gift for my husband and he enjoyed watching these movies very much. He liked to watch old movies and this was a series he wanted.Published on April 6, 2013 by Charlene A. Kennedy
Over a 54 year career John Ford (1894-1973) made 140 films, half of them silent. He won 4 Oscars ("The Quiet Man", "How Green was My Valley", "The Grapes of Wrath", "The Informer")... Read morePublished on July 4, 2011 by Dr. James Gardner
John Ford was arguably the greatest American movie director of the 20th century. His career spanned the end of the silent era to the Vietnam era, and though he is most famous for... Read morePublished on September 23, 2007 by Scott Martin Gavin
I agree with one reviewer that "The Hurricane" should have been included. Also, "Three Bad Man" and "The Iron Horse" need to be accessed but they very likely still belong to Fox. Read morePublished on March 20, 2007 by James J. Cremin
|Topic||From this Discussion|
|Will each item in this collection be released individually--||
I agree. I really just want Sergeant Rutledge.
Jan 9, 2008 by Evil Larry | See all 3 posts
|John Wayne-John Ford set||
I love to watch movies in the letter-box format, but notice the date--many of these films were not filmed in a wide-screen format and to try to change them would hurt the film--just like if you tried to colorize them--they were filmed before Cinemascope and should be seen that way!!!!
May 12, 2006 by Daniel Waitkoss | See all 4 posts
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