This is a rather curious mix of films from the great John Ford. We have two films concerning social injustice, one made shortly after the other which make good companion pieces. We then have two Westerns sitting rather uncomfortably alongside. One is a very fine Western and the other rather average by Ford's high standards.
"The Grapes of Wrath"(40) is based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel of 1939 by John Steinbeck. The film covers the arduous and harrowing journey of the Joad family from their abandoned home in Oklahoma to California, and their attempts to try and find work in this new land. The first half of the film is faithful to the book. The second half less so. Henry Fonda gives one of his more powerful performances as Tom Joad, just released from prison who returns to a deserted home. He travels on to find his family. The film is very strong on family loyalty but is mostly about the ills of social injustice.
At the end of the film Tom goes off to join a movement committed to social justice and says the following famous words:-
"I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too."
"How Green Was My Valley"(41) is also based on a famous novel by Richard Llewellyn, who strangely enough was an Englishman. This film chronicles the lives of the Morgan family in the South Wales coalfield at a time of great social and economic upheaval. We follow their loves and hardships as fortunes fluctuate. Again we see the close family bonds. Walter Pidgeon and that Ford female stalwart Maureen O'Hara star, with the youngest family member played by Roddy McDowell who provides the narration. The film was made in Hollywood due to WW2, which does give it a rather false look. The Welsh accents are a very dodgy Hollywood Welsh, certainly not heard in the Valleys. It is also a little over sentimental. It is a good film but not a classic as was "The Grapes of Wrath".
"The Horse Soldiers"(59) is based on the novel by Harold Sinclair who based it on a true event from the American civil war when Union soldiers raided far behind Confederate lines to saboutage a railway line. In doing so they rode some 700 miles. In the film John Wayne plays Col John Marlowe and William Holden plays the surgeon Maj Henry Kendall. The two are constantly at odds. They are also forced to take along the pretty Constance Towers who complicates matters. They are constantly on the run and have several scrapes with Pursuing Confederate troops. The film is not as strong as Ford's earlier cavalry trilogy and shows a distinct lessening of his powers after the epic "The Searchers"(56). It fails to capture Ford's usual stylistic hallmarks. An interesting film but not one of his best.
"My Darling Clementine"(46) is another take on "The Gunfight at the OK Corral" between the Earp's and the Clanton's. The title is taken from an old folk song. It is 1882 and the Earp's are driving cattle to California. They have a run in with the Clanton's led by old Man Clanton played by Walter Brennan. The brothers later go into nearby Tombstone leaving younger brother James in charge. On their return the cattle are gone and James is found murdered. Wyatt Earp played by Fonda swears vengeance and takes on the job as Marshall for Tombstone to ensure justice is done. He is aided by the consumptive Doc Holliday played by Victor Mature who constantly coughs into the worlds largest and most used hanky. The film shows Ford on top form. It travels at a measured pace and is both moody and stylised. In short a fine film full of the typical Ford flourishes.
At the present time of writing this review the DVD is available at an absolute snip. You have two superb classics and two very watchable films at a bargain price. Look at the individual prices for these films and you will see what I mean. Although it is an odd mix, it contains great quality and is a good buy at the present price. Highly recommended.
on 28 August 2010
The Grapes Of Wrath:
Languages: English, Italian, Spanish, German, French.
Subs: English (HoH), Italian, Spanish, German, French, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Turkish.
The Horse Soldiers:
Languages: English, Italian, Spanish, German, French.
Subs: English (HoH), German (HoH), French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese.
How Green Was My Valley:
Subs: English (HoH), Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Swedish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Hungarian, Polish.
My Darling Clementine:
Subs: English (HoH).
on 3 March 2016
There's always an odd-film-out in box-sets, isn't there? Here we have a quartet of Ford films, three extremely famous, but none quite from the very front rank of the great director's work. The extra one is "The Horse Soldiers" (1959), which Ford himself disliked, mostly because an old friend of his, stunt man Fred Kennedy, was killed doing a simple fall near the end of shooting. Did the director blame himself for this? He would appear to have wrapped the film up as quickly as possible after the tragedy, leaving out a big action sequence entirely, and generally losing interest. The stars, John Wayne and William Holden, each took home $750,000, the biggest fees Hollywood had ever paid anyone at the time (Elizabeth Taylor would soon get even more for "Cleopatra"), and this expenditure was not justified by the movie's disappointing box-office. However, it has its virtues; it's minor Ford, but interesting and enjoyable and with a very hard edge - the Civil War is a vile business, and we're left in no doubt that Andersonville prison camp, to which the Holden character may be sent after the film ends, is a hellish place. "How Green Was My Valley" was the film which notoriously beat "Citizen Kane" to the Oscar as Best Film of 1941, which is quite shameful, as it's not very good. Anyone who knows anything about Wales will be bemused (to say the least) by the peculiar accents essayed by the actors (only one of whom is actually Welsh) and by the stern disavowal of socialism voiced by a veteran coal-miner, whilst its mining valley setting (actually in California) is remarkably clean and affluent, with all members in a large family seeming to have separate beds. But there are still moments when one is reminded that Ford was one of the cinema's great visual poets and the young Maureen O'Hara is a striking heroine. The other two films, "The Grapes Of Wrath" and "My Darling Clementine", are far better. The latter is simply an extremely pleasurable western, apart from the now-derided scene where Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) turfs an unfortunate drunken Indian out of Tombstone - the film is no masterpiece, overall, but its greatest sequence (the open-air dance) certainly belongs in one. The former's quickly-acquired status as an official classic now works against it for some purists, and it's true that the very best of Ford's work is to be found elsewhere, in films not universally acclaimed when they first appeared - but you'll never forget some of the astonishing images conjured by the director and cameraman Gregg Toland, or Henry Fonda's quiet sincerity as Tom Joad, or the absolute matter-of-factness with which Jane Darwell delivers the famous last line - "Can't nobody beat us. 'Cause we're the people." Amen to that.