Fort Apache Movie Review
In this one, the Duke is a cavalry officer stationed in Apache territory who is sympathetic to the Indians' plight. He is forced to choose between challenging the Apaches and disobeying his commanding officer, a hapless Northeasterner (Henry Fonda). The straight-arrow role arguably fits Wayne better than the conflicted heroes and bad guys he played in The Searchers, Red River, and other films.
Wayne also has good material to work with. The screenplay includes plenty of corn and stock characters but also thoughtful speeches, with echoes of post-Civil War tensions as well as the shameful, inevitable Indian conflicts. The Indian antagonists are presented respectfully (especially for Hollywood in the 1940s). The conclusion -- in which the Apaches hand the Americans their butts and Fonda's mistakes are covered up by the military and the press, like Custer at Little Bighorn -- demonstrates that westerns weren't always one-sided and jingoistic.
Needless to say, the West of John Ford movies is more a state of mind than historical reality, but it's still not a bad place to kill a couple of hours. If you feel like renting a good oldie, this is one of 'em. The western genre entertained Americans for decades, and like the other greatest westerns, Fort Apache shows why.
The DVD includes a documentary about Monument Valley.