Director: John Ford
Starring Cast: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, John Agar.
Based on “Massacre” by James Warner Bellah, Fort Apache is a classic Western story of Captain Kirby York (Wayne), a man who knows the Indians well and seeks to make peace with the local tribes. Owen Thursday (Fonda), an arrogant lieutenant colonel from the east, takes command of the fort. His daughter Philadelphia (Temple) is courted by the son (Agar) of the sergeant major, a liaison bitterly opposed by Thursday. Despising Indians and hoping to advance his career, he breaks York’s agreement with the Indians and launches a Custer-like charge that wipes out his entire force. York goes on to tell reporters that Thursday died gloriously.
Fort Apache was the first of a fantastic cavalry trilogy from John Ford, made within 2 years and all starring John Wayne, all focusing on the US Cavalry’s battles with the Indians. Fort Apache was beautifully filmed at Ford’s favourite location of Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border.
However it is life at Fort Apache that has been so vividly captured; the reunions and separations of loved ones, the waiting women, the revelry of the soldiers, the singing interludes, and the formal dances including a Grand March.
Henry Fonda is superb as the uncompromising commander, firm in posture and performance, and the iconic John Wayne is the ideal contrast alongside him.
Fort Apache can comfortably sit alongside the best of the early Western movies. If Western’s are your thing then Fort Apache is well worth seeking out.