Fort Apache

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"John Ford's Masterpiece of the Frontier! The first installment of John Ford's trilogy..."
  • Passed
  • 1948
  • 2 hr 5 min
  • 7.4  (19,428)

Fort Apache is a classic western movie from 1948, directed by John Ford, and starring an ensemble cast that includes John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Shirley Temple. The story takes place in the late 1800s, in the territory of Arizona, and it deals with the tensions between the US Cavalry and the local Apache tribe. The movie is based on the novel "Massacre" by James Warner Bellah and is the first entry in the famous Cavalry Trilogy by John Ford. The story revolves around the character of Captain Kirby York (John Wayne), who is the new commander of Fort Apache, a remote outpost in the middle of Apache territory. His second-in-command is Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda), a rigid and ambitious officer who considers himself a military genius.

The tension between the two protagonists is established from the beginning, with Thursday dismissing Captain York's advice and ordering a reckless and foolhardy attack on the Apache stronghold, against the warnings of the local Indian agent and the experienced sergeant Quincannon (Ward Bond). The consequences of that decision will have tragic repercussions for the soldiers and the Apache alike.

The portrayal of the Apache culture and customs is one of the strengths of the movie. While the Native Americans are not idealized or romanticized, neither are they demonized or reduced to stereotypes. They are shown as a proud and resourceful people, who resist the encroachment of the white man but also seek to coexist peacefully with him. The character of Cochise (Miguel Inclán), the chief of the Apache tribe, is particularly impressive, as he exudes wisdom, dignity, and strength.

Another notable aspect of the movie is the performances of John Wayne and Henry Fonda. Wayne, who was a frequent collaborator of John Ford, delivers one of his most nuanced and understated performances, portraying Captain York as a brave and competent officer who respects the Apache and understands their motivations. Fonda, on the other hand, plays Lieutenant Colonel Thursday as a prideful and authoritarian figure who wants to impose his will at all costs, regardless of the consequences. Their interactions are fraught with tension and conflicting ideals, and they culminate in a dramatic confrontation that highlights their differences.

Shirley Temple, who was a child star at the time, plays the daughter of Colonel Thursday, a naive and innocent girl who comes to Fort Apache with her father. Her role is mostly decorative and romantic, as she falls in love with Captain York and provides a contrast to her father's militarism. However, her presence adds some charm and sweetness to the movie, and her scenes with Wayne have a certain tenderness and warmth.

The cinematography and the music score are also noteworthy. The movie was filmed in the iconic Monument Valley, which provides a stunning backdrop for the action. The landscapes are vast and majestic, and they create a sense of awe and wonder. The score, composed by Richard Hageman, is evocative and stirring, using elements of traditional Apache music and military marches.

In conclusion, Fort Apache is a classic western movie that combines historical accuracy, epic scope, and human drama. It portrays the clash of cultures between the US Cavalry and the Apache tribe with sensitivity and intelligence, showing the complex and nuanced relationships between the characters. John Wayne and Henry Fonda give memorable performances, and the supporting cast is excellent. The movie also has a strong visual and musical style that enhances its emotional impact. Overall, Fort Apache is a must-see for anyone interested in the western genre or the history of the American West.

Fort Apache is a 1948 western with a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.4.

Fort Apache
Where to Watch Fort Apache
Fort Apache is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Fort Apache for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 5 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.4  (19,428)