AIR MAIL (John Ford, 1932)

Written by Frank Wead and directed both beautifully and efficiently by John Ford, Air Mail revolves around the dangers to air-mail pilots flying out from a tiny snow-blown airport around Christmastime and the clash of personalities between straight-laced Mike Miller (Ralph Bellamy), who runs the airport, and pilot Duke Talbot (Pat O’Brien), who is a […]

FORT APACHE (John Ford, 1948)

The first and most brilliant part of John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy is Fort Apache; the only Ford film to star both Henry Fonda and John Wayne, it pits two characters against each other who epitomize different aspects of the military impetus: purity and practicality; careerism and leadership; military orders and military order. Although this powerful […]


“Custer is dead,” matter-of-fact voiceover declares at the outset of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the middle part of John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, written by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings from the story “War Party” by James Warner Bellah. It is an informative public voice. Six weeks before his retirement, Capt. Nathan Brittles visits […]

TOBACCO ROAD (John Ford, 1941)

Written by Nunnally Johnson, John Ford’s tonally complex, engrossing, brilliantly hilarious Tobacco Road restores the sympathy for the poor and understanding of poverty that distinguish Erskine Caldwell’s 1932 novel but which were replaced by condescension and otherwise obscured in Jack Kirkland’s offensive, long-running play. With the soul and eye of a poet, moreover, Ford has […]