Saturday, July 10, 2010

TCM - Thanks for Fort Apache This Afternoon

TCM kindly ran Fort Apache this afternoon, and it meant I got to hear John Wayne magnificently intone the almost final tribute to the soldiers:
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 hay. Maybe horsemeat before this campaign is over. Fight over cards or rotgut whiskey, but share the last drop in their canteens. The faces may change... the names... but they're there: they're the regiment... the regular army... now and fifty years from now. They're better men than they used to be. Thursday did that. He made it a command to be proud of.
This pretty much tops off a very subtle and interesting movie, about a lot of things; working in a large organization, stupid sense of hierarchy, war, the expansion of America into the Southwest, all subtle with no demonization of anyone except perhaps for the guy praised as the hero at the end.
I have not really seen so subtle a war movie in this generation. Was it what was special about John Ford and his collaborators, or just the era? Did the 60s, as I suspect, destroy the ability to reflect on war and battles with the subtlety Ford brings to it?
Of course Ford also made my favorite movie, The Searchers, also a John Wayne film, and also a very subtle piece regarding the relationship between the encroaching white population in the Southwest and the Indian populations resisting them.
I doubt it could be made today, or any film so intense and ambiguous, and I do think it is brain-dead politics that have shut that possibility off.
Both movies discussed here are films from the post-WWII time, separated by about a decade, but in both cases a time when America had beaten two enemies and was now building an alliance with both defeated enemies. In that way they are hopeful films, in ways I do not see the prevailing political culture even wanting to have such hopes.


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