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Howdy, Ro!

I'm pretty much with you all the way with why we like westerns,  It is my preferred genre and setting for morality plays and one of the least enjoyable when approached with a 100% authentic realism point-of-view (but then, what subject is unless you're doing a documentary?).

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I may have watched it "too early" in my Ford run.  If I remember correctly, I wasn't moved emotionally enough.  I just remember Wayne, Mitchell, and the drunkard family man.

 

The characters are almost reduced to archtypes, which is Ford going counter to his usual strong suit (bringing archtype characters to loving.flawed life) so I can understand your reaction.  He's being completely cinematic (artistic) as he was in The Fugitive and The Informer and even Cheyenne Autumn.  He like to do this now and then.  I think when his characters were most specific, they were able to reach more in the audience, and when they became more "generalized" or symbolic, the had the opposite effect intended. Nevertheless, whenever i see other film makers doing the same after him and getting all ga-ga reviews from critics, I'm bemused because they can't see that Ford did it before them (as did other directors---nothing new under the sun).

 

 

You don't like Frenzy because of the ugly people!  Anna Massey was one of them!

 

Seeing her in Inspector Morse the other night I have to agree.  She looked terrible.  I'm afraid she took after her father!

 

 

Excellent questions!  I hope others answer.

 

I'm very glad you and Rohanaka did and I too hope more will chime in at their leisure.

 

I find westerns to be very "masculine", so I find them easy to relate to and identify with.  There's the classic good versus bad and then the "grey" eventually shows up as the westerns mature.  I love the time of westerns, the "wild west".  I love watching the way of life of the Old West.  I like the conventions of the western: the town, the sheriff, the deputy, the saloon, the church, the shop, the horses, the dirt and dust, the plains, the mountains, the clothes, the hats.  While all of this makes the genre restrictive, it's very comfortable to me.  Westerns also connect with the little boy in me because there are villains.  If there is a western, there is a villain.  This makes it very "superhero".  And that's something I have always been drawn to.

 

I didn't know you liked the setting that much.  I can see the "superhero" aspect, though this is about the only style in which I like it presented, generally.  I prefer Shane to Spider Man any day. :D

 

 

What I like about Ford's westerns is his romance with the West.  He treats the West with such great love and care.  He was clearly a romantic.  I like that Ford knows how to blend many feelings in his westerns.  You are going to find drama, action, romance, and comedy.  He makes a complete picture.  Hitchcock did the same with his thrillers.

 

A "complete picture".  That's a good way of putting it.  I especially see this with Hitch.  He really gives you the whole shebang.  Though I like him when he doesn't (The Wrong Man, I Confess, etc.).  Yes, in the artistic and emotional sense, Ford was a romantic though he was very compassionate and humorous about human weaknesses. He didn't gloss them over though he didn't demonize them either.  

 

He always made screen time for the kind of people most don't have any time for, if you get what I mean.  They especially shine in westerns.

 

Anthony Mann's westerns tend to be more psychological, which is something I love.  He makes the film noir western with dark characters and themes.

 

Agreed.  His characters are fascinating.  Now here is where the Gary Cooper I like shows up, with Mann.  In Man of the West, the opening is the Coop audiences love (awkward, good natured, bemused) but later on.....  Sure wish he'd worked with Ford, though!

 

Budd Boetticher's westerns usually feature revenge.  They are a battle inside that is projected outward.

 

I also think I see "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" themes in his films, too.  His characters are what they are.

 

No revenge I recall in The Lady and the Bullfighter, but a lot of what I just mentioned.  Though it's not really a western, I guess.

 

 

The underrated Delmer Daves' westerns can be somewhat Shakespearean.  He also seems to focus on the weak-willed man facing challenges.

 

I never thought of that at all but you are right!  Great analysis!

 

 

Howard Hawks' westerns that I have seen have been mostly with Duke.  He tends to like the buddy-buddy films with an older wiser man playing a critical role.

 

And does it excellently.  Hawks makes a point that his men are usually competent, which I love.  Especially since this quality has disappeared.

 

Henry Hathaway typically likes isolation in his westerns.  He places a group of characters in tight quarters and lets the emotions bubble up.

 

Again I never saw any single theme in his work, I thought him rather all over the place.  Can you name some?  Rawhide springs to mind.

 

William Wellman's westerns are pretty interesting.  They usually feature a sociological thread with them.

 

Yes I do see that in his films, except maybe Across the Wide Missouri.  Though the Indians are shown with sympathy.

 

 

Raoul Walsh seems to like a man at odds with the world he lives in.  He's often being chased and pushed to the fringe.

 

Excellent!  I certainly see that.  And love it.  Again, the Irish in him to feel an outsider.

 

I like your final comment.  That's very true.  You fully expect the Ringo Kid and Dallas to find their happiness together away from civilization.

 

Just as Ranse and Hallie lost theirs going into civilization.  Or at least Hallie did.  Liberty Valance is as if Dallas went off with Gatewood instead of Ringo!!!

 

Coop is often the bashful fella!  Although, you usually don't like him in such roles.

 

When he's NOT just the bashful fella, there's none better.

 

And I would be a "Tommy Mitchell" with Ford, without a doubt. :D  Mitchell was seemingly born to play "Doc Boones".  He really is Shakespearean.  He's just as great in the under-appreciated The Hurricane.

 

Yes, indeed he was.  Love him. 1939 was the year of Thomas Mitchell. 

When he tells Scarlett not to "make a spectacle of yourself over that Ashley Wilkes", my mother and I always laughed.  The way he says "spectacle" is hilarious.  And that's what she did!

 

They are certainly bookends.  What are the similarities?  There is the coach, for sure.  And the coach is a dusty relic in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  That tells you a lot.

 

Both movies are about people caught in a time of enormous social change, the kind of change that always takes place.  There is that "taming" the west and what that means to so many different people---and interests.  How both show who are the people who get "respect" and "credit" and who the real heroes are.  How the heroes end up is different in tone but not necessarily circumstance (Ringo ends up happy but he does disappear into obscurity.  Most people in 1939 and now would prefer Ranse's future---aka, "fame", "power"---to Ringo's.  No one would want Doniphon's life, yet people who love "civilization" have no future without men like him and Ringo).  

 

And today it seems everyone is trying to be a Gatewood or a Stoddard while pretending they're not.

 

I'm still mulling the two films over.

 

Do you know of any Ford silents available on YouTube that I haven't seen?

 

You saw The Blue Eagle?

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Hi, FaceInTheCrowd -- That's what I love most about it, especially contrasted to the way the character appeared earlier in the movie.

 

I like the back-and-forths between Ameilia (Elizabeth Allen) and Donovan (John Wayne).  They make the film for me. 

 

It's a sweet little film.  Something out of the ordinary for John Ford.  That alone makes it worth watching.

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Aloha, Pappy's Girl -- The characters are almost reduced to archtypes, which is Ford going counter to his usual strong suit (bringing archtype characters to loving.flawed life) so I can understand your reaction.  He's being completely cinematic (artistic) as he was in The Fugitive and The Informer and even Cheyenne Autumn.  He like to do this now and then.  I think when his characters were most specific, they were able to reach more in the audience, and when they became more "generalized" or symbolic, the had the opposite effect intended. Nevertheless, whenever i see other film makers doing the same after him and getting all ga-ga reviews from critics, I'm bemused because they can't see that Ford did it before them (as did other directors---nothing new under the sun).

 

I love The Informer.  It's because I love the desperation of Gypo (Victor McLaglen).  The film is rather similar to Night and the City.  I don't like The Fugitive.  It's so very dry to me.  It reminds me of The Wrong Man.  Same lead, as well.  And he's one of my faves.  While I'm not crazy about Cheyenne Autumn, I still like it.  I like the feel of the film.

 

But you are very right, all of those films are highly artistic and cinematic.  Those are excellent points by you.  The same can be said of The Long Voyage Home.  You would think I'd go for these films.  But I feel Ford isn't being "Ford" with those films.  And I like Ford.

 

Seeing her in Inspector Morse the other night I have to agree.  She looked terrible.  I'm afraid she took after her father!

 

Somebody is bitey!

 

I didn't know you liked the setting that much.

 

I really do love the western setting.  I love the simplicity of that time.  There's hardly anything "materialistic" about that time.  It's about people and the elements.

 

I can see the "superhero" aspect, though this is about the only style in which I like it presented, generally.  I prefer Shane to Spider Man any day. :D

 

You don't like grown men in costumes and tights? :P  Actually, you probably go for Errol Flynn and swashies.  Those are "superhero" kind of pictures.

 

A "complete picture".  That's a good way of putting it.  I especially see this with Hitch.  He really gives you the whole shebang. Though I like him when he doesn't (The Wrong Man, I Confess, etc.).

 

I like Hitch much less when he's not "Hitch".

 

Yes, in the artistic and emotional sense, Ford was a romantic though he was very compassionate and humorous about human weaknesses. He didn't gloss them over though he didn't demonize them either.  

 

I feel compassion is an element of Ford's romance.  He was in love with those kind of characters and people.  He had a romantic view of them and that life.  That's why he shows such compassion for them.  Anthony Mann was not a romantic with the western.  He liked to dig under the skin.

 

He always made screen time for the kind of people most don't have any time for, if you get what I mean.  They especially shine in westerns.

 

I completely agree.  Ford often leaned on such characters for comic relief and heart.  And I think you often find the most beloved supporting characters in classic film in comedies.  Ford transported these folks to the western.  This is one of the reasons why Ford's westerns are richer than most.

 

Agreed.  His characters are fascinating.  Now here is where the Gary Cooper I like shows up, with Mann.  In Man of the West, the opening is the Coop audiences love (awkward, good natured, bemused) but later on.....  Sure wish he'd worked with Ford, though!

 

You are right!  You get both Coops in Man of the West.  Mr. Deeds Goes to High Noon.  Which Ford film do you think Cooper would have fit best?

 

I also think I see "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" themes in his films, too.  His characters are what they are.

 

But I think Boetticher's heroes are pushed to a level they don't wish to be.  The hero (Randolph Scott) doesn't want to be controlled by his rage.  He's a prisoner to it.

 

No revenge I recall in The Lady and the Bullfighter, but a lot of what I just mentioned.  Though it's not really a western, I guess.

 

I have to check that one out!

 

And does it excellently.  Hawks makes a point that his men are usually competent, which I love.  Especially since this quality has disappeared.

 

This completely incompetent man thanks you! :P

 

Henry Hathaway typically likes isolation in his westerns.  He places a group of characters in tight quarters and lets the emotions bubble up.

 

Again I never saw any single theme in his work, I thought him rather all over the place.  Can you name some?  Rawhide springs to mind.

 

Rawhide and Garden of Evil both feature isolation and rather tight quarters.  So does Legend of the Lost, a pseudo-western.  The Sons of Katie Elder features a little bit of both, but nothing to the extremes of the above.  True Grit and Nevada Smith are not like this.  They are similar to each other, but they are more journey/revenge westerns.

 

Yes I do see that in his films, except maybe Across the Wide Missouri.  Though the Indians are shown with sympathy.

 

That's one I've yet to see.  I can believe Wellman showing Indians in a sympathetic light.

 

Raoul Walsh seems to like a man at odds with the world he lives in.  He's often being chased and pushed to the fringe.

 

Excellent!  I certainly see that.  And love it.  Again, the Irish in him to feel an outsider.

 

I believe you are very correct about his being Irish playing a big role in the kind of films he made.

 

Just as Ranse and Hallie lost theirs going into civilization.  Or at least Hallie did.  Liberty Valance is as if Dallas went off with Gatewood instead of Ringo!!!

 

What a couple they would make! :D


Yes, indeed he was.  Love him. 1939 was the year of Thomas Mitchell. When he tells Scarlett not to "make a spectacle of yourself over that Ashley Wilkes", my mother and I always laughed.  The way he says "spectacle" is hilarious.  And that's what she did!

 

I also love Thomas Mitchell.  He was a very good actor.  And 1939 really was his year.  Such triumphs!  And I'm sure Elke laughed and then said the same to you, Scarlett! :P

 

Both movies are about people caught in a time of enormous social change, the kind of change that always takes place.  There is that "taming" the west and what that means to so many different people---and interests.  How both show who are the people who get "respect" and "credit" and who the real heroes are.  How the heroes end up is different in tone but not necessarily circumstance (Ringo ends up happy but he does disappear into obscurity.  Most people in 1939 and now would prefer Ranse's future---aka, "fame", "power"---to Ringo's.  No one would want Doniphon's life, yet people who love "civilization" have no future without men like him and Ringo).  

 

Very good!  I'm with ya.  Who wants to live in obscurity when there is the attention of everyone else to be gained?  Doniphon was definitely a "comfort zone" guy.  Ranse wanted to "conquer lands".  You need both.  It's just the one gets the glory.  But the "comfort zone" guy doesn't care for glory.  It's certainly progressive and conservative.

 

And today it seems everyone is trying to be a Gatewood or a Stoddard while pretending they're not.

 

I think there are more Valances today!  Lots of selfish bull-whippings.

 

You saw The Blue Eagle?

 

No!  I can watch that coming up.  Thanks!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been indulging myself watching some Ford favourites and of course cannot help noticing some small things that I never noticed before.

 

Fort Apache has not been one of my favourites but I think it is really growing on me.

 

Have you ever noticed how choregraphed the cavalry and horse scenes are. Riders not connected to the main action move in and out of the scenes or stop moving at appropriate tense moments, then move in or around. Columns of four are always spot on as single lines move into marching lines. I guess what I'm trying to say is that whilst Ford never does the 1930's cowboy and his horse thing, the horses all seem to be part of the composition, rather than just transport or background. He seems to use the movement to create tension and moments or to support it.

 

In Fort Apache, its almost like  Thursday's horse moves with the same deliberate slow step as Henry Fonda does whilst Yorke is almost always at a gallop, charging into scenes, clearly demonstrating teh differences between the two men. And the loose cavalry horses all thundering down the canyon at the end, seem to me at least, very symbolic of the riderless charger often used at military funerals. in SWAYR too, Dobe's beautifully executed halt to slow canter when he salutes Captaian Brittles, (not at all easy to do) says something about the maturity and control his character has acquired.

 

Its also very noticable at the start of the Grand March that Henry Fonda is clearly looking to his right shoulder, for direction when to go? whilst Shirley Temple is marching on the spot.  I could not help wondering if Ford created some tension about Fonda leading the march off, ( also not an easy thing to do at the best of times) just to create the  embarrasment of the character as he is obliged to dance with someone 'below' him in the  hierarchy.

 

I can't help noticing too that for soemone who didn't like horses, horses seem to like John Wayne. Both Sammy in SWAYR and Banner in Fort Apache just about have their noses in his pockets when he leads them.

 

dee

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  • 2 years later...

I watched Air Mail on YouTube last evening.  I thought it was quite good.  Although a different ending could have made the film really good. 

 

For those of you who may not know, the film is basically the first telling of Only Angels Have Wings.  Ralph Bellamy is in the "Cary Grant" role, leading a group of pilots who are to deliver the mail in all conditions.  Yeah, you heard right.  Ralphie boy.  Certainly a different dynamic.

 

You will also find some similarities to other characters in Only Angels Have Wings.  Slim Summerville plays a similar character to that of "Kid Dabb" (Thomas Mitchell).  Pat O'Brien is playing a character similar to "Bat MacPherson" (Richard Barthelmess).  Gloria Stuart would be the "Bonnie Lee" (Jean Arthur)  and Lilian Bond is playing a slight shade of "Judy MacPherson" (Rita Hayworth).

 

I think you can definitely see the different directorial choices and story focuses of that Ford and Howard Hawks.  Hawks has the advantage of having the film world mature from 1932 to 1939.  Those huge steps forward help to polish the product.  But the "meat and potatoes" of the story are very much set with Ford's picture.

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I watched Air Mail on YouTube last evening.  I thought it was quite good.  Although a different ending could have made the film really good. 

 

For those of you who may not know, the film is basically the first telling of Only Angels Have Wings.  Ralph Bellamy is in the "Cary Grant" role, leading a group of pilots who are to deliver the mail in all conditions.  Yeah, you heard right.  Ralphie boy.  Certainly a different dynamic.

 

You will also find some similarities to other characters in Only Angels Have Wings.  Slim Summerville plays a similar character to that of "Kid Dabb" (Thomas Mitchell).  Pat O'Brien is playing a character similar to "Bat MacPherson" (Richard Barthelmess).  Gloria Stuart would be the "Bonnie Lee" (Jean Arthur)  and Lilian Bond is playing a slight shade of "Judy MacPherson" (Rita Hayworth).

 

I think you can definitely see the different directorial choices and story focuses of that Ford and Howard Hawks.  Hawks has the advantage of having the film world mature from 1932 to 1939.  Those huge steps forward help to polish the product.  But the "meat and potatoes" of the story are very much set with Ford's picture.

 

Well 1932 is the pre-code era;   Did Ford take advantage of that?    I.e. one should be able to make a more interesting and compelling film based on the same source material in the pre-code era than the production-code era.

 

Hugh upgrade in casting for the Hawks film,  but I'm bias since Grant and Arthur are two of my top 5 favorites and they have very good chemistry together in the two films they made.

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Well 1932 is the pre-code era;   Did Ford take advantage of that?

 

That's not Ford's style, to be salacious.  But there is more of a sexual element to this than most Ford pics.

 

I.e. one should be able to make a more interesting and compelling film based on the same source material in the pre-code era than the production-code era.

 

Less restrictions with script but film-making and performances are still being crafted during this time.  It's often a production hodge-podge.

 

Hugh upgrade in casting for the Hawks film,  but I'm bias since Grant and Arthur are two of my top 5 favorites and they have very good chemistry together in the two films they made.

 

Agreed.  Cary, Jean, and Thomas are all spectacular performers at the height of their abilities.  Cary at the outset of his, but still a height.  Plus you get a radiant Rita Hayworth and the stony gravitas of Richard Barthelmess.  I'd say Pat O'Brien is the one who can match such performances in Air Mail.

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