A couple of John Fords: The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) and Fort Apache (1948)

The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)

THIS was directed by John Ford? A light, funny little semi-parody of gangster movies and tale of mistaken identity? If you just showed me this movie without credits, I wouldn’tve guessed in a million years that John Ford of all people helmed it…but hey, I’ll take it. Edward G. Robinson is fantastic, as usual, this time in a dual role, showing both sides of a range you never would’ve guessed he had – a meek, shy and soft-spoken bookkeeper, and the nasty, fast-talking gangster he gets mistaken for – the persona you’d much more readily associate Robinson with. But, he pulls off both roles very nicely (it really is incredible how different these two characters, being played by the same actor, are), and while some of the movie is incredibly dated (that black doorman at the bank…  ), many of the situations that arise from an unassuming bureaucrat being mistaken for ‘Killer’ Mannion are very clever and funny – even moments of slapstick aren’t overdone, but are more in-the-moment than anything, making the humor that much more endearing (Robinson can do obnoxious drunk like no other 😛 ). I’ve only seen three of Edward G. Robinson’s performances (well, 4 if you count this movie’s as two…), but I think he’s shooting right up my list of favorite actors regardless. This movie’s nothing profound, but it was cute, and I liked it 🙂



Fort Apache (1948)


jesus christ, Shirley Temple got HOT!

Well, when I wasn’t thinking about the things I would do to America’s former sweetheart in a sleazy motel room, I was pretty much bored. You’ve seen one 2-hour excuse to show off Monument Valley, you’ve seen ’em all, and “Fort Apache” was one of ’em all. Some shots of desert, some trouble at home at a remote army base, some stock chase/action scenes between army ‘n Indians, that just about sums it up. Even John Ford’s bizarre brand of comic relief, namely involving inexperienced soldiers and their horses in some really weird slapstick, is just plain strange, and Fonda stick out like a fucking sore thumb. I’d compare his go as a stubborn, bloodthirsty or glorythirsty or both Lieutenant Colonel to, say, Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s “Rope” – in both cases, a great actor in the prime of his career, practically dumped into a movie where it just doesn’t feel like he belongs. On the bright side, though, John Wayne’s pretty damn good as the captain – charismatic, honorable in sympathizing with the Indians, basically the foil to the bullheaded Fonda, and doesn’t yet have that stroke victim drawl the uninitiated would associate with John Wayne. But, at least until the finale, Wayne is woefully underused, in favor of trying to build up Fonda’s assholeishness for some kind of redemption that, while portrayed heroically at the end, feels disingenuous, and a sub-plot involving Fonda’s daughter (Temple  …can’t act to save her life, but  ) and her romance with the young officer who, of course, daddy doesn’t approve of, that has its moments but falls a bit flat like most everything else. If it wasn’t for little moments like the drunk serenading the happy couple and the O’Rourke family on their porch one night (a most-decidedly Ford-ian moment 🙂 ), and a climax that ends things on an incredibly strong note, as Fonda’s near-crazed Lt. Col. Thursday and his men take on the Indians (who’re portrayed in a more positive light than negative, so the question of which side to root for is surprisingly, and nicely, complex), “Fort Apache” would be utterly forgettable. As it stands, it’s still one of the weaker Ford’s I’ve seen, but the last reel or so saves it from oblivion


1 comment so far

  1. watcat on

    Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

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