MARY OF SCOTLAND (John Ford, 1936)

In addition to being a great actress, Katharine Hepburn was one of the most beautiful women to appear on-screen; and nowhere else is she quite so beautiful as she is in Mary of Scotland, based on Maxwell Anderson’s play, where (following Helen Hayes, for whom the part had been written) she plays Scotland’s ill-fated Mary […]

THE HURRICANE (John Ford, Stuart Heisler, 1937)

Heavily influenced by F. W. Murnau’s Tabu (1931), The Hurricane is not among John Ford’s artistic successes. However, this South Seas island melodrama is ultimately very moving—overwhelming, really. This is due to a poised, emotionally mature marital reconciliation that allows new appreciation, wisdom and tenderness to thaw the frosty side of the union. It is […]

THE EXILES (Kent MacKenzie, 1961)

London-born Kent MacKenzie’s The Exiles begins with Edward S. Curtis photographs: the Native American Past. Cut to the present, on a Bunker Hill, Los Angeles street; through this shot, which initially appears to be another photograph, a trolley moves. This first, unexpected bit of motion establishes a tension with the preceding stasis, motionlessness: moving in […]

MISTER ROBERTS (John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy, 1955)

Douglas A. Roberts, whose initials suggest an elitist organization (Daughters of the American Revolution), “has background,” as we used to say; he is one of those “college boys” that his captain, Morton, whose background is rough and working-class, disdains. (They treated him with contempt when he was a busboy.) During the waning days of the […]