This is my favorite among the several westerns which Ford directed. When seeing it again recently, I was again struck by how relevant this film is to the contemporary business world, more specifically in terms of issues which concern leadership and management. In his recently published Why Smart Executives Fail, Sydney Finkelstein identifies a number of specific lessons which can be learned from "spectacularly unsuccessful" executives such as Dennis Kozlowski, Jean-Marie Messier, and Jill Barad. In an article published by Fast Company magazine (July 2003), he lists seven self-defeating and destructive habits:
1. They see themselves and their companies dominating their environment.
2. They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporate interests.
3. They think they have all the answers.
4. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn't 100% behind them.
5. They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image.
6. They underestimate obstacles.
7. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past.
In Fort Apache, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) displays all of the seven habits identified and then so brilliantly discussed by Finkelstein. Captain Kirby York (John Wayne) repeatedly tries without any success whatsoever to dissuade his commanding officer from behavior which ultimately results in his (Thursday's) death and the slaughter of most of those under his command. Near the end of the film in his final remarks to journalists, York defends "Thursday's Charge," not to protect Thursday's reputation but to protect the honor of those whom the vainglorious Thursday led to their deaths. York also wishes to preserve the honor of the U.S. Cavalry.
Brilliantly filmed in black-and-white by Louis Clyde Stouman and Archie J. Stout, Fort Apache captures the natural beauty but also the isolation in which the fort is located and to which the obviously unhappy Thursday is assigned following the reduction of his rank. (No reasons are given for the assignment and demotion, both of which Thursday bitterly resents.) Ford includes several sub plots, notably the mutual attraction of Lieutenant Michael O'Rourke (John Agar) and Thursday's daughter Philadelphia (Shirley Temple) and the role of the corrupt government civilian official, Silas Meacham (Grant Withers). Of course, several members of the Ford Repertory Players (Pedro Armendariz, Ward Bond, Dick Foran, Ben Jonson, and Victor McLaglen) are also in the excellent cast.
The focus of the film, however, is on the conflict between Thursday and York. More specifically, between Thursday's stubborn commitment to mindsets and habits such as those Finkelstein identifies and York's determination to avoid further hostilities. York respects Cochise and the Apaches whereas Thursday views them with contempt. Worse yet, Thursday tragically underestimates their judgment and skills as warriors. Of course, York knows better. Much as Cochise wants to avoid bloodshed, Thursday leaves him no choice after insulting him in front of other Apache leaders (including Geronimo) as well the cavalry officers nearby. I shall never forget Cochise's profound sadness when realizing that there is no longer any hope for peace. The results of "Thursday's Charge" are a foregone conclusion.
Even after 55 years, this film remains visually stunning and retains its dramatic impact. For these and other reasons, it is among my favorite westerns and, in my opinion, the best of the westerns which John Ford directed.
on June 5, 2013
This is one of my favorite movies. I return to it every once in a while. Some great acting and a powerful embodiment of the Biblical proverb, "Pride goeth before a fall." Great universal themes, too: pride, honor, courage, justice, respect for other cultures, betrayal, self-control, self-sacrifice, redemption, refusal to take good advice (a theme as old as Sophocles from the 5th century B.C.)...and the list goes on. The special features are excellent as well. I particularly enjoyed the commentary, where I learned (after seeing this film almost a dozen times in past years) that Col. Thursday symbolizes General George A. Custer, his hubris and denigration of the Sioux nation, which led to the massacre that wiped out Custer's command. I enjoyed it even more this time as the plot led ineluctably to Thursday's downfall. I recognized the elements of classic tragedy with Col. Thursday as the tragic hero, an otherwise great and able man who possesses a fatal flaw that eventually destroys him. it occurs to me that If you need a good film for a film class paper, this would be an excellent choice--very easy to write about. Enjoy!
on June 6, 2006
John Ford must have felt very fortunate (although he would have never have admitted it)to have had John Wayne and Henry Fonda star in Fort Apache.
Wayne and Fonda were by far the great director's favorite leading men - he made Wayne a star in "Stagecoach," and went on to direct him in some of the best-loved, best remembered Westerns ever, "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," and one of the greatest movies of any genre, "The Searchers." Fonda appeared in many movies with Ford as well, including "Drums Along The Mohawk," "The Grapes of Wrath," and another immortal Western, "My Darling Clementine."
Following a pattern that he would continue in "Liberty Valance," Ford analyzes the mythology of the West, in particular the valiant heroic cavalry officer who bravely and unavoidably leads his men to certain death, thereby obtaining immortal glory. Fonda plays an arrogant, by-the-book stiff commander who will have nothing less than a to-the-death struggle with Cochise. Wayne is his subordinate, trying desperately to avoid catasrophe.
This film has it all, great performances, great direction, and great cinematography. It is way past time that this great film be released on DVD, but it is well worth the wait.
on August 8, 2001
To be totally honest, this is the only western I like. Now I know what my grandparents mean when they exclaim nostalgically when watching an old movie on their favorite movie channel, AMC, "They don't make 'em like they used to!" This film has made me a loyal AMC fan, and it's the only channel I tune into nowadays. Believe me, if you're looking for good old-fashioned entertainment, this one is the ideal choice. It has everything to offer: great comic relief, romance, tragedy, adventure and keeps you on the edge of your sofa throughout the whole show. By the way, if you're interested, it features an all-star cast that consists of the Duke of Western classics, John Wayne, Henry Fonda,Shirley Temple,John Agar and Ward Bond, and is directed by the movie mastermind, John Ford. All the ingredients for a true Western classic!
First of all, Henry Fonda excels in his role as the domineering, 'martinet' type Colonel Owen Thursday. Sure, I learned to scorn him in the duration of the show,but I realized that it was clearly what the character demanded. At the beginning I was already thinking to myself, ' Sheesh, where the heck did that Thursday guy get his inflated ego! What a rat!'I'd give him a big thumbs up for pulling off a real stupid role and making it the best he possibly could. But, I have to admit, in the scene where he's leading a charge at the Apaches ( the 'bad guys') in an airhead procedure, I found myself rooting for the 'savage' Indians. Oh, well . . .
John Wayne was good in his unimportant role of Kirby York, who constantly clashes with the stupidly unreasonable and egotistical Colonel Thursday. I could really sympathize with the Duke there. I mean, who wants to work with a ... mad-man like Thursday? He was always putting his men at risk in the battlefield in thrown together strategies that were given no time or thought. It made me sick. And such a big shot! It was so obvious that he considered himself hot stuff, which is totally bogus! I kinda pitied the Duke; not just because he was put under the order of Thursday, but because he was constantly in Fonda's shadow throughout the film. But, I give him a high five for playing the sensible, practical, gritty and honest 'tough-guy' hero, his trademark role.
And last, but not least, a standing ovation to Shirley and John Agar! Those two were just so unbelievably sweet and compelling as the lovers. By today's cruddy standards, where ... flicks are the general 'romance thrillers', their romance would be considered real 'cute'. But, personally, I thought they were thrilling - truly thrilling, especially during their two kiss scenes. True, they weren't extremely passionate, considering they shared their first kiss after they became engaged. But still, their delicate, gentle love scenes stole the show! Not only were they adoreable, they made the perfect couple. Gosh, Agar's good looks and debonair, yet still boyish and innocent manner made my heart stand still, and Shirley's darling smiles and simpers were real scene stealers! She looked prettier in this film than in any other I've seen her. The rest of this film could be a little lackluster, but I never failed to be spellbound during the Shirley/John scenes. What an angelic pair! They brought an innocense and sweet magic to the screen, something that's not seen often today in our jaded world. Their youth and vigor and vitality certainly won my heart. You cannot imagine how disgusted I was with that Colonel Thursday, who was Shirley's father in the movie, when he forbade the two to wed after John Agar ( Lt. Michael Shannon O'Rourke) asked him for his daughter's hand in marriage. I thought I'd blow when Colonel Thursday explained, in his cold, stern tones, " I'm afraid I must deny you my daughter's hand in marriage due to the apparent barriers between your class and mine." Shut up, Thursday! Have a little compassion here, please. Also, he was a real control ... regarding his daughter, too, beautiful and vivacious 16-year old Philadelphia Thursday, who was head over heels in love with her Lt. O'Rourke. He had a strict curfew and wouldn't let her talk or look at her rejected suitor. He even considered sending her away from the fort to an academy ' where she'd have two years to forget about Michael.' When Thursday was killed during the battle scene at the end, I felt a wave of relief flow over me. Yes, now Michael and Phil could get married. They did, and had a little boy in the last scene of the approx. two hour film. He was a real cutie, too! What a fabulous ending to a true classic! Though I'm only twelve years old and this movie would be snubbed as 'corny old junk' by my peers, I must say I sincerely enjoyed watching 'Fort Apache' and wish my age group would grow up and realize just how special and priceless this classic is, even if it is old. Entertainment, like fine wine, improves with age. I strongly recommend this movie to anyone interested in history, cowboy and indian entertainment,or Henry Fonda, John Wayne , Shirley Temple , John Agar fans, or to whomever wants a taste of some real good old-fashioned entertainment! This movie has charm and taste, and is a real pleasure to see in our now classless, charmless and tastless society. Please take the time to check it out at the nearest video arcade or store and I know you'll fall in love with it! And fasten your seatbelts for a rip-roaring good time - Yahoo!!
on February 14, 2013
John Ford was one of the greatest directors to ever step on a movie set. He was proficient in many genres but won his most acclaim for his Westerns - especially those starring John Wayne. Fort Apache ranks among his best offerings, having not only great direction but also two super stars at the peak of their powers. Duke Wayne and Hank Fonda play contrasting characters who share one thing in common - the call to duty. The scenery is glorious and the pacing sublime in this highly recommended film.
on February 11, 2013
My favourite movie experiences these days are the newly printed masterpieces of the past. To see this film beautifully restored like this is wonderful.
John Ford was one of the greatest film directors who ever lived. John Wayne was, and is, much underrated as an actor, especially when working with Ford.
I only hope that Warner get their hands on the 2nd of the Cavalry Trilogy, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and do the same level of work that they have done here.
on March 1, 2014
the movie is brilliantly directed and tightly organized to subtly depict life for Anerican cavalry troops on duty in the midwest in the years after the war between the states. There are numerous sub-plots including the love affair between an officer's daugter and the son of a NCO, conflict between officers, and what happened to some officers after the reduction in ranks following the war between the states. Ward Bond plays an excellant role as the top soldier of the regiment.
Ultimately, the conflicts resolve when the troops close ranks against all outsiders; whether indians, politicians, press or just plain civilians.
This film is part of four cavalry picture involving John Ford and his ensemble. While John Ford made a number of "more famous pictures" such as "How green was my valley," "they were expendable" and "The Thin Grey Line", these films demonstrate John Ford's understanding of the use of scenery and subplots to enhance a film and grap the viewer. the four are:
She wore a yellow ribbons;
The Horse Soldiers.
[While the Horse soldiers is normally not considered as part of John Ford's cavalry pictures, it should be. all four should be considered a "body of work."]
on August 10, 2014
John Ford westerns are excellent. Great casting, good use of scenery, music, storyline.
Henry Fonda is superb as Owen Thursday, the reluctant commander of a western outpost
who is not adept at handling the Indians. John Wayne tries to assist him but fails to
reach through Thursday's hard as nails, by the book command. John Agar is not too
bad as the young soldier who falls in love with Thursday's daughter Philadelphia,
played by a grown-up Shirley Temple. The west as we like to see it.
on March 28, 2014
Great movie, with great actors. It's hard to beat Wayne and Fonda at their best, along with a very nice performance by Shirley Temple as a young adult. This is considered a classic for a reason. Very nice plot, directing, acting. The film makers do a great job of having stories within the story, meaning inter-personal relationships are deveolped while the main story is unfolding. Nicely done. The only thing I would ask for is if it were available in wide screen so that we could see the entire dimensions that one would see in a movie theater. But that's a relatively minor issue, and this is a really fun, adventurous movie that every western fan should see.
on September 22, 2013
Always loved this one, had an old VHS that kept 'freezing up' so I, being the 'sorry arse' penny pincher could not pass up the $4.99 offer. B&W quality, Superb, extras: Original Trailer and History of Fords Monument Valley shooting. Unbelievable price for such quality and as usual arrived well ahead of time through Amazon. I love authentic Westerns that show the 'Indian side of things'. When this was shot in 1948 they still had old braves who were alive during the 'Indian Wars' who advised the real younger indians on set in the valley, just like my favorite Titanic Movie: 'A Night to Remember' had surviving officers from the Crew of the Titanic as 'advisors' on that movie.