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Found 2 results

  1. With Hollywood westerns, a little bit of research goes a long way - in my lifetime, I've had more success with this genre of movie than perhaps any other, all because I do a little research before choosing what to watch. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) is the twelfth of fourteen collaborative westerns with John Ford and John Wayne (the first and ninth, respectively, being "Stagecoach" (1939) and "The Searchers" (1956)). It is perhaps the most beautiful western I've ever seen. Loaded with famous actors, every single major and minor star outperforms in this deceptively sad meditation upon grief, love, and any of a half-dozen other basic human traits, all attending a costume party in what is most likely mid-19th-century Colorado, and cloaked as a moral dilemma involving the death of another human being. Never have I seen John Wayne play a more important part with less screen time than in this film. Jimmy Stewart is clearly the star - he has to be - but it's Wayne who completes this movie, and who transcends himself in a role so touching that you may feel your eyes moisten in what is one of the most poignant endings of any film I've ever seen. A death itself cannot be considered tragic (everyone who has ever lived, has died), but certain deaths are inherently more tragic than others, and when a piece of history is buried alongside an anonymous hero, lost forever to the earth, and made known only to an audience who desperately wants to jump inside the screen and construct a proper memorial - that cannot be considered a romance, or an action film, or even a western; it can only be classified as a full-blown tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The next time you and your date are hunting around, looking for a movie to watch, remember this thread: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is required viewing for everyone who cares about great film.
  2. "Fort Apache" is the first of John Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy," all of which were based on stories by James Warner Bellah. It stars Henry Fonda as a widowed, uppity, West Point-educated Lieutenant-Colonel from back East who doesn't want to be at this frontier post, Shirley Temple, his spoiled - but kind and beautiful - daughter, Philadelphia Thursday, and John Wayne, the savvy, respected Major Captain Kirby York, who was expected to get the job of running Fort Apache, except the telegraph lines were down, and nobody knew that Lieutenant-Colonel Green got the job. There's a wonderful shot of (a rather disgruntled) Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple riding out west towards Fort Apache early in the film. And, during a scene at the little, makeshift tavern, these four men, the leftmost of whom is feeling generous, and the man to his right not quite getting it: *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Green is rather full-of-himself, and unqualified to deal with the Apache tribe, mistakenly thinking that the Sioux are just as fierce - this, despite Major York advising him that the best way to tell a Sioux is by the bones of their corpses lying on the ground, in retreat from Apache territory. Green dismissed this comment, despite York's practical experience, and said the Sioux's reputation was as being equally fierce. Green is a stickler for military protocol, and doesn't tolerate any type of violation of the hierarchical system. Two other important characters are a father and son: Sergeant-Major Michael O'Rourke (Wade Bond) and his son, who has just returned from West Point after four years, Second-Lieutenant Michael Shannon "Mickey" O'Rourke (John Agar). The O'Rourke family is close-knit, and an important part of this film - although West Point-trained Mickey is "by the book," he's still a nice person, a handsome man, and he and Philadelphia Thursday (Shirley Temple) have most certainly caught each other's eye. There's a wonderful little sequence of events when Mickey first comes home - Mickeys father (whom he now technically outranks because he's an officer) wants to go back to a party being thrown in honor of George Washington's birthday, and give Mickey and his mom (Irene Rich) some time together. Again, this takes place after a warm greeting, ten minutes of catching up, and is detailed pictorially on another, even more appropriate thread here - click here for the hilarious sequence of events (it's worth the click, trust me). Mickey takes Thursday our riding for several hours one morning, and when her father finds out, he is livid. They return to Fort Apache after seeing two dead bodies, burned, tied spread-eagle across some wagon tires. Colonel Green asks if his daughter saw this, and Mickey says yes, which does not go over well. In face, Colonel Green forbids Micky from riding with, or even seeing, his daughter again - he is a possessive father, and entirely unfair to a decent and civilized officer. This comes at about the fifty-minute point of an otherwise (I hate to say it) dreadfully boring film. I once read where a war-weary United States wasn't in the mood to be watching a film about soldiers and Indians going around killing each other - we'll see what happens going forward, but even Major York (John Wayne) has played an almost non-existent role in this slow-moving film so far. I'm hoping it gets better, although there has been some decent character development, along with the signature John Ford use of Monument Valley at the beginning. Major York has been incredibly deferential to this point, when he needs to request a one-on-one session with Lieutenant-Colonel Green, asking for permission to speak freely - if you know what I mean. A small rescue team rides out to recover the bodies, but a very large band of Apaches is waiting for them, and pursues them, which would almost certainly ride to their death, but an assembled A-Troop (the cavalry) rode out to their rescue, and overpowered the Apaches. This would be lesson number one for Colonel Green - let's hope he's starting to understand the gravity of the situation he's in. So far, Cochise (Miguel Inclán, yet to be seen) has been mentioned several times. If you've been following along, you'll remember Cochise as featuring prominently in "Broken Arrow," which was released two years *after* this film, and was directed by Delmer Daves, not John Ford, so as honorable a man as Cochise was in "Broken Arrow," that is entirely irrelevant in this movie. Wow, I've seen several films lately where Henry Fonda was an antagonist - I never knew he played so many dark roles before, but sure enough, he did seem to have his share. In fact, in the first films of the two western trilogies I'm currently watching (John Ford's "Fort Apache" and Sergio Leone's "For a Few Dollars More"), he's the lead antagonist. Silas Meacham (Grant Withers), a trading post owner, is, on the surface, a decent fellow, but one look beneath the surface (followed by accusations from Major York) reveal him to be a terrible kind of profiteer, and a trusted Indian agent. He was assigned this post by the U.S. Army, and has been involved in fraudulent, personal gain with some type of deal with the Apaches and anyone else who would come through and purchase his cheap wares. Boxes marked "Bibles," for example, contained rotgut whiskey. When Green and York to tell Sergeant Mulcahy (Victor McLaglan) to destroy the contents, he turns to his three friends, and the following pictures say all that needs to be said: After which they obviously got unbelievably drunk, thrown into the guardhouse, were (temporarily and humiliatingly) demoted to privates, and dressed down in a rather dramatic fashion by Sergeant-Major O'Rourke before being put on manure detail. At 1'30" into the film, York *wisely and openly* defies Colonel Green at an NCO dance, saying Cochise agreed to come back to American soil to discuss peace, but only with three people; York, Meacham (the trader), and Green. Green, on the other hand is planning on sending an entire regiment at dawn (a regiment in modern terms is a couple thousand people). This is a direct betrayal of York's trust, and Cochise will see it as a clear sign of war and betrayal. This dialogue says it all: York: "Colonel, if you send out the Regiment, Cochise will think I've tricked him." Green: "Exactly. We have tricked him - tricked him into returning to American soil and I intend to see that he stays here." York: "Colonel, on Thursday, I gave my word to Cochise. No man is going to make a liar out of me, sir." Green: "Your word to a breach-clouted savage? An illiterate, uncivilized murderer and treaty breaker? There's no question of honor, sir, between an American officer and Cochise." York; "There is to me, sir." This is the talk they should have had at the beginning of the film. Needless to say, Captain York was overridden by the egotistical Colonel Green. The regiment leaves the following dawn. My only hope is that York left the previous evening, to go warn Cochise to turn around, and that it's a trick - this is what any honorable man would do. It's what John Wayne would do. (Response, no, he's riding out with the regiment - not 2,000-soldiers strong, but certainly hundreds. This is a sad, dishonorable moment, but let's see what happens going forward.) And, of course, the regiment is slaughtered by the superior Apaches. Green dismisses Ford as a coward, and tells him to wait in safety - Green will determine whether it is to be demotion or court marshal - of course, Green won't be around to do it, because he'll be dead, like all the others (and this is even after Ford went back to try and rescue him once). At the end of the massacre, the Apaches ride up to the remaining (retreated) calvalry, and Comise plants his stalk in the ground, symbolizing that *now* is the time that we can talk about peace - this is exactly the way the film should have gone from the very beginning, were it not for some arrogant Lieutenant-Colonel. Incidentally, Philadelphia accepted Willie's hand in marriage, and they had an adorable baby. And in the end, Wayne made sure that Green, and all the other slaughtered troops, went down in history as gallant warriors instead of fools. When you've finished the film, this is worth reading: Jul 22, 2013 - "Uncovering Forgotten History through Fiction: 'Fort Apache'" by Amy C. Nickless on amsscrpbag.wordpress.com
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