FORT APACHE (1948) 

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Henry Fonda
John Wayne
Shirley Temple
Pedro Armendariz
Ward Bond
George O'Brien
Victor McLaglen
Anna Lee
Irene Rich
Dick Foran
Guy Kibbee

John Ford



Time: 125 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Action/Western

Fonda and Wayne go head to head in this complex action tale about a pig-headed, snobbish Lt. Colonel, relegated to a post in the western desert, who's willing to sacrifice anyone in the name of duty, honor and approval. Though unfamiliar with the Army's relationship with the local Apache Indians, Owen Thursday (Fonda) forges ahead with his own ideas about how, when and where their problems with the local tribes should be settled. His hardheaded, by-the-book behavior generates disapproval amongst his men, especially those who've spent years shoring up the Army/Apache peace, yet they perform their duties as proper soldiers should. Captain York (Wayne) attempts to impart his experience to his new commander, but his advice falls on deaf ears. Thursday may have been forced to accept command of Fort Apache, but he's not about to stay there for long. This situation is only temporary for him and his daughter Philadelphia (Temple).

His plan is to quickly dispatch of the Apache problem, in order to regain the respect of his superiors and return back to the South. He is highly displeased when his daughter begins to socialize with one of his soldiers, Sgt. Major O'Rourke (Bond), and becomes almost apoplectic when she's endangered during a surprise Apache raid while out riding with O'Rourke against his wishes. Her determination to continue their budding relationship, only causes her father to become more reckless in an effort to end their banishment. Thursday's determination to capture the clever and elusive Apache leader Cochise on American soil places the future of every soldier under his command in jeopardy. His arrogance and impatience blinds him to the fact that Cochise has been hard to catch for a reason. The final battle is a disaster for the Army. It's not until they are surrounded that Thursday finally recognizes the terrible misjudgment he's made. Cochise is a proud and ruthless warrior who's not about to lose his life or his freedom. With no hope for escape, Thursday does what's expected of him: he summons his courage and rallies his troops for one final stand against the enemy.

"If you can see them, they're not Apaches."

Ford was a genius when it came to war/western pictures and FORT APACHE is one of his best. The expansive scenery, explosive action and intensely flawed characters make this flick one you won't soon forget. The love story between Temple, in one of her first adult roles, and Bond is sweetly believable and breaks up the macho postering, but sort of slows down the film and leaves one waiting for those scenes to be over. It's the tension between Fonda and Wayne that is the centerpiece of the story. Both believe they are right and neither is about to back down. They play intelligent, relentless men with strong opinions, giving this fairly stock story real depth and flavor. Fonda is unlikable from the first frame to the last, gaining one's true respect only at the very end when he stands by his men and accepts his impending doom with courage and honor. Sure, he dug his own grave with horribly shortsighted planning, but he had the chance to be rescued and he refuses to let his men sacrifice their lives for his. The final race across the desert is heady and powerful due to the great visual work of Ford's camera and editing team and the acting by Wayne and Fonda. Even for those who don't care for Westerns, this is a classic well worth the time.

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