Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin

Friday, February 17, AD 2017

 

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), perhaps the greatest of Westerns, contains this gem of a scene with John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, Strother Marvin, Lee Van Cleef and Woody Strode.  Marvin as Liberty Valance is the archetypal mercenary gunslinger, his days, and the days of his kind, about to come to an end.  Wayne as Tom Doniphon, rancher, is the obverse of Marvin, a man just as tough as Valance, if not tougher, but no bully.  However, his time is also closing.  Their destroyer?   The almost clown like figure of Ransom Stoddard, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart.  He knows nothing about guns, but he knows a lot about law, and law and civilization are fast coming to the range.  This is John Ford’s eulogy to the Old West, and to this type of Western.

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3 Responses to Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin

  • This is an excellent post. The “Frontier Thesis” was abroad in which many believed that the end of the frontier represented the beginning of a new stage in American life and that the United States.

    An artist’s requiem to the “Old West” can be seen in the works of Frederick Remington – his paintings and sculptures.

  • “Marvin as Liberty Valance is the archetypal mercenary gunslinger, his days, and the days of his kind are about to come to an end.”
    No disrespect here. It occurred to me that the gunslingers and bullies of yesterday have only traded iron for text. Today’s full of the Liberty Valances of yesterday. Some use iron. Cop killers use iron. Berkeley thugs use gasoline and rocks. To me these hateslingers are made from the same mud as Liberty. Different times, same bullies.

December 7th

Sunday, December 7, AD 2014

Directed by John Ford and produced by the US Navy, this is a stunningly good film on the attack on Pearl Harbor, winning an academy award.  Released in 1943, the film asks hard questions about why Pearl Harbor was so unprepared and expresses sympathy for the Japanese-Americans in Hawaii and the suspicion they found themselves under after the attack.  Fifty minutes of the film was cut as a result, and for decades only a truncated 32 minute version was available.

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3 Responses to December 7th

  • “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition.”

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

    This one day, we may stop criticizing the admirals/generals; cease “Monday morning quarterbacking” the conduct of the war; and let us gaze upon the simple soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen not as pitiful victims, but as heroes.

    We need to rediscover their principles and motivations: the whys and wherefores for which the fought with such courage, perseverance and skill; and for which so many paid the last measure of devotion.

  • Such a different world then, it seems to me. An attack on a territory of the U.S. elicited Such a response. Allies worked together with a shared focus. to fight when and where and how necessary. Now even after beheadings , attacks on on embassies etc -not to mention 9-11-01. We can not seem to find the necessary self preservation instinct.

  • The days of a reasonably coherent culture in America are in our past. We are a nation of immigrants who are not happy with where we left, nor with where we are and our interests are everything but common.

The Three Godfathers

Friday, December 13, AD 2013

An interesting film for Advent or Chistmas is a John Wayne flick.  John Wayne in a Christmas movie?  Yep, The Three Godfathers in 1948!   Another fruitful John Ford and John Wayne collaboration, the film was released in December 1948.  Three bank robbers, John Wayne, Pedro Armedariz and Harry Carey, Jr.,  stumble across a dying woman and her newborn son in a desert in the American Southwest.  The three outlaws, although they are attempting to elude a posse, promise the dying woman to look after her son.

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4 Responses to The Three Godfathers

  • Robert
    Robert William
    Robert William Pedro!

    Wayne & Ford’s last collaboration was also a Christmas movie of sorts, Donovan’s Reef; or at least it takes place during the season.

    Worth seeing, if only for the Nativity Play scene’s three wisemen, the King of Polynesia, (Mike Mazurski), the Emperor of China (John Fong), and the King of the United States of America (Lee Marvin).

  • Donovan’s Reef is another fine example Ernst of Wayne’s dab hand at comedy. A nice comical subplot between Wayne and the local French priest, played by the great French character actor Israel Moshe Blauschild, who keeps giving away money given to him by Wayne and his friends for the repair of the chapel to the poor, “because their need is so great.” By the end of the film the priest is shown finally being able to repair the roof of the chapel. Like all John Ford and John Wayne films the Church is shown with respect and affection.

  • First saw this film when I was eleven and enjoyed it. It has held up well over the years.

  • Much of Wayne’s work has Pete, which is remarkable.

The Fugitive (1947)

Tuesday, June 5, AD 2012

A Fugitive: I have a question, Lieutenant. When did you lose your faith?

 A Lieutenant of Police: When I found a better one.

The film For Greater Glory has reminded me of director John Ford’s forgotten The Fugitive (1947).  Very loosely based on Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory (no priest in an American film in 1947 was going to have the moral failings of Greene’s whiskey priest) the film did poorly at the box office and soon fell into oblivion, except among film critics who regard it as one of Ford’s more interesting works.  Ford said it was  his favorite film.

The film is set in a nameless country, obviously Mexico where the movie was filmed, where religion has been abolished by the government.  Henry Fonda is the last priest hunted by a police lieutenant, played maniacally by Pedro Armendáriz.  Armendariz is a whole-hearted convert to atheism, and views the capture of Fonda as a noble task.  

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7 Responses to The Fugitive (1947)

  • Yeah, this is the film I meant! It’s got some gorgeous, gorgeous scenes in it.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen the beginning of the movie, though, because TCM was always airing it at weird times.

  • “All in all, an interesting film. However, I wish Ford’s main leading man, John Wayne, had been cast in the role of the fugitive priest. While he is on the run he rounds up a hard riding band of Cristeros. In the climactic fight scene he leads the Cristeros in liberating the village, taking out the police lieutenant in a mano a mano epic fight, and ends the film saying mass for the newly liberated villagers! Whatever the critics might have said in after years about the film, I guarantee it would have been a smash hit at the box office!”

    Yea, Donald, and I wish that Mel Gibson would have had the lead in The Passion and led the apostles and his followers in a violent revolt against the Romans like in Braveheart and instead of being captured and killed at the end he would have cut off all their heads like he and Homer Simpson cut off the heads of all the other senators when they remade Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

    With all your militaristic ramblings Donald . . . do you get the point of the Gospels.

  • Glinda, how long have you suffered the dreadful malady of being humor impaired, and have you sought treatment for this grave affliction?

  • Glinda,

    What you write about what happened during Christ’s first coming is absolutely correct. Below is what is going to happen when He comes again, and it is going to make the Cristeros’ rebellion against an evil and vicious atheist dictator look like a child’s game of Cowboys and Indians. Buckle up, “baby”, because the wrath of God is going to come. He will not indefinitely tolerate baby murdering to the tune of 1 million per year in this country, and the heretical nuns who give assent and approval for the same. His justice is the other side of the coin whose head is love; and He loves babies, He loves His Church, He loves righteousness and holiness.

    11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

    KING OF KINGS AND
    LORD OF LORDS.

    17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

    19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

    Revelation 19:11-21 [ Did you read that, Glinda? – it’s agonna be horrible because that’s what sin does. ]

  • Mr. McClarey, thanks for the heads-up. I’d never heard of this film before,
    and I’ll be sure to check it out.

  • I think you will enjoy it Clinton. It is a film that is worthy of careful examination since, at least in my case, there are nuances that flew right by me the first few times I watched it.

John Ford, John Wayne and Grierson’s Raid

Friday, May 25, AD 2012

Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.

   Miss Hannah Hunter of Greenbriar, portrayed by Constance Towers in The Horse Soldiers 

 

 

One of my commenters at Almost Chosen People, the American history blog I run with Paul Z, noted my post on movies for a Memorial Day weekend and directed me to a review he had written of The Horse Soldiers (1959), the classic retelling of Grierson’s Raid during the Civil War by John Ford, and the last of the “cavalry collaboration” films between Ford and John Wayne.  I enjoyed the review, and Fabio Paolo Barbieri, the author, has given me permission to repost it here:

 John Ford’s THE HORSE SOLDIERS.  About half of this movie is one of the greatest war films ever done; indeed, one of the greatest that can possibly be made – more, perhaps, may be made, but not better.  It would, in my view, be impossible to give a better, a more painful, a more affecting and tragic view of war.  War is one of the greatest subjects in the arts, and it affords a virtually infinite field for reflection and for emotion; and it is my view – or rather, I think, my experience, that the authors of this movie reached to its very bottom.  More ketchup sauce, more plastic severe limbs, more and more savage special effects, could not possibly increase its impact, because that impact is not on the gut and the nerves, but on the emotions and on the mind.  It is a work of thought, as well as of magisterial narrative control.
(That, incidentally, is why I find The Bridge on the River Kwai overrated.  It collapses at its very last frame, when the American character describes everything that has gone on until then as “madness, madness”.  Whatever its implications and its emotional content, it clearly was not madness; and the impact of those final words is that of a simple refusal to think about what the movie had shown – an inexcusable retreat into irrationalism.  That any reflection would be very painful is an explanation but not an excuse.)
Great narrative artists think in plot structure, and the plot structure of that half of The Horse Soldiers – the significant half, the masterpiece half – is both unique and extraordinarily well realized.  The climax of the story is not where we expect it to be; and both the false and the true climax are worked up to with exacting, time-burning care, for maximum impact.  The story concerns a U.S. cavalry raid – said to be a real historical event – to destroy an important Confederate railway line and depot and so deny besieged Vicksburg vitally needed supplies.  The cavalry column, led by a former railway worker promoted to Colonel on the battlefield, will be moving from beginning to end in enemy territory, and have to keep its mission secret down to the very moment in which it will accomplish it.  The movie does an excellent job of displaying the difficulties and the dreadful exhaustion of such a mission; indeed, it is typical of the way in which every narrative element is used to build up, that the meeting of officers with which it starts takes place in a downpour  – this immediately informs us that this mission will be no joy ride.  (And because John Ford is economical and does not abuse story elements, the downpour is not repeated – although the cavalrymen enjoy the pleasures of forced marching, bug swarms, swamp rides, injuries, amputations without anaesthetic, fever, battle deaths, sunstroke and exhaustion.  To inform the public that this story is to be taken seriously is one thing; to repeat oneself unnecessarily is another.)
Dodging Confederate forces and possible spies (but pausing to rescue one decent Southern sheriff from two villainous defectors – a charming scene), the cavalrymen reach their target, which they find virtually ungarrisoned, its few soldiers under the command of an armless veteran who once was the friend of one of the Union officers (a fine touch, reminding us of what a civil war actually does).  Indeed, just as they are sitting in the captured village, a Confederate train appears on the line – as if just coming to fall right into waiting Union hands.
It seems too good to be true, and it is.  Quick inquiries by the suspicious ex-railwayman colonel (John Wayne) bring out the fact that the captured enemy commander had been found in the telegraph office.  A minimum of rushed orders send the practiced Union veterans scurrying to set their own trap, around the only road down which the enemy must charge; and when the Confederate soldiers of which the train was full come charing out, they are met with murderous fire on all sides and slaughtered nearly to the last man.
As I said, there is no abuse of ketchup sauce or flying body part; this is not Quentin Tarantino.  But Ford makes damn well sure that we understand, first, that these are extraordinarily brave men – they go on charging at an impossibly entrenched enemy as long as there is one of them left standing; and, second, that their only reward for their bravery is agonizing death or lifelong deformity and mutilation.  Not only is the battle itself a model of perfect staging and shooting (indeed, throughout this movie, Ford’s always luminous photography reaches an especial pitch of inspiration), but he takes some considerable time after the battle scene to give us an account of the desperate and mostly unavailing medical care given the injured Confederates by medics of both sides.  At the same time, not to miss any opportunity for bitter and powerful contrasts, the Union cavalrymen are carefully destroying, with considerable and rowdy good humour, every bit of railway they can reach and the whole content of the local depot.

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The Horse Soldiers

Thursday, February 17, AD 2011

In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.

The video at the beginning of the post shows an interview done of Harold Sinclair during the making of the film.  Go here to read a note by Sinclair at the beginning of his novel in which he describes the liberties taken in the novel from the historical events.

John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest.

Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech:

Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.

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6 Responses to The Horse Soldiers

  • Good flick!

    Most memorable scene (for me) was the military school cadets attacking the cavalry. The march up, the “Bonny Blue Flag”, the mother pulling her son out of the line, the charge, . . . The cav humanely withdrawing.

    Today, the cavalry (not tanks) squadrons (battalions), troops (companies) are serving in Afghan and Iraq. The platoon consists of four armed Hmvees: two with .50 cal.; one with auto grenade launcher; and one with a TOW missile. The troops are MOS “cavalry scout.” The officers infantry or armor. My son served with a cav platoon in Afghan.

    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

    Our Lady of Victory, pray fro us.

  • My little brother T.Shaw led a cav platoon in Germany in the early eighties. He always told me that you haven’t lived until you are charging down an ink black trail in a tank in the Black Forest at midnight while attempting to read a map and take a compass heading!

  • Love this movie, Donald! Can’t say enough about it. My favorite part is when they’re hiding from the Confederates who are singing the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it.

  • That is a fantastic scene Pat. I loved the scene also where Strother Martin and Denver Pyle are portraying two Confederate deserters. Their interaction with John Wayne was classic comedy.

  • I have never seen this film, but it sounds very interesting.

    OT, but I feel the need to apologize to Donald and any other AC Flatlanders. Illinois already has more than enough spineless, craven Dem politicians. You certainly don’t need our spineless, craven ones.

    Here’s my video contribution for the evening, inspired by the brave souls who courageously ran south rather than vote on the state budget:

  • Bravo Donna! You anticipate my post for tomorrow! I found it hilarious that the Democrat Wisconsin senators ran to Rockford, the most dismal town in Illinois not named East Saint Louis!