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Author Topic: Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)  (Read 8217 times)
Ben Tyreen
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« on: February 13, 2008, 04:38:28 PM »

 In a long list of very good John Ford movies, I've noticed that Drums Along the Mohawk often gets overshadowed.  Sure, it's not up there with The Searchers, My Darling Clementine, and the cavalry trilogy, but it's right there with it IMO.  Tells the story of a recently married couple, Gil and Lana Martin, in 1776 moving to Deerfield in the Mohawk Valley.  As they try to establish their lives on the frontier, they must deal with all the issues that the Revolution brought up.

 Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert play the two main leads and head a really strong cast that includes Edna Mae Oliver, Eddie Collins, John Carradine, Arthur Shields, Francis Ford, and my favorite Ford regular, Ward Bond.  I love the use of time appropriate music, including Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Utah fills in nicely for colonial times New York.  Afro  Good action scenes, and one of the best non-car chases ever. 

 I know we've got John Ford fans around, so anyone else a fan of Drums Along the Mohawk? Smiley

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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2008, 04:57:55 PM »

"and Utah fills in nicely for colonial times New York."

No it doesn't, lol.

There are way too many pine & fir trees, It should have been mostly hardwoods oak, maple, hickory, sycamore, a few scattered cedar and hemlocks. Still a good flick.

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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2008, 04:59:43 PM »

Quote
No it doesn't, lol.

There are way too many pine & fir trees, It should have been mostly hardwoods oak, maple, hickory, sycamore, a few scattered cedar and hemlocks. Still a good flick.

 Well of course it doesn't actually look like New York, but the cinematography is great whether it be Utah or NY. Grin

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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2008, 08:59:19 PM »

As they try to establish their lives on the frontier, they must deal with all the issues that the Revolution brought up.
Isn't the film set during the Seven Years War?

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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2008, 06:35:54 AM »

No this one is set during the AmRev.

The Mohawk Valley had almost a minor civil war going on during the revolution it was 1/3 Tory, 1/3 Rebel, and 1/3 neutrals, but the original residents of the valley the Mohawks & Onondagas, were pro British (as were most of the rest of the Iroquois) and the Rebels at the start burned out their Tory neighbors. The valley was the main travel route to the Great Lakes and the West.

Chief Joseph Brant of the Mohawks (who was highly educated) and John Johnston head of the Tories re organized and began to systematically attack the rebel settlers, the Cherry Valley Massacre was notorious. They also laid a siege to Ft. Stanwick at the head of the Mohawk Valley.

General Herkimer and a rebel army attempted to break the siege but were defeated by Brant at Battle of Oriskany.

They struck all the outposts settlements to the South & East and along the Delaware River. Finally Washington set General Sullivan on an expedition up the Delaware coordinating with a push down from the headwaters of the Susquehanna to break the Iroquois power in the Western part of the state. Most of the tribe headed up to Ontario after that, though remnant reservations are still scattered in New York.

There are a great series of narrative histories by Alan W. Eckert stating with "Wilderness Empire" (French & Indian War) "The Conquerors" (Pontiac's Rebellion) "Wilderness War"(The Revolution) the next one which I think is "The Frontiersman" covers the thrust into the Ohio Valley and the conflicts with the Shawnee & Miami Indians. I recommend them.

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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2008, 09:43:00 AM »

As ever, thanks Joe. You know your stuff.

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« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2009, 11:32:26 AM »

Pleasant to watch borderline W, but not much of a real threat in it. Too many good-hearted folks going around singing Yankee Doodle in something that should have been a way grittier war drama. Even the bad Indians didn't much help...


7/10

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« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2009, 07:03:35 PM »

Drums Along the Mohawk - 8/10 - A Western set in New York! It's nice to see a genuinely good film about the American colonial era, as there are very few of those. Gorgeous Technicolor, fine art direction, good battle scenes, fairly unromantic depiction of war and frontier life, little or no Ford bumptiousness and marginal sentimentality. Henry Fonda is in noble hero mode, eye-patched John Carradine is an excellent villain, and Claudette Colbert and Edna May Oliver are wonderfully tough cookies.

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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2010, 02:47:53 PM »

Despite it's flaws, this is still probably the best film about the American Revolution - admittedly not a great achievement, as relatively few such films have been made.

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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2010, 04:54:04 PM »

If you're into revolutionary stuff you should definitely check out Zachariah, Groggy.

I did: and one revolution is more than enough for me.

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« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2012, 03:49:00 AM »

Just saw Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) for the first time. 6/10

My (extended!) feelings on this movie:

....are similar to my feelings on Wagon Master (which I liked even less than this one):
I am really tired of the John Ford shtick. The same shitick again and again. it's not that I don't like Ford, or that aspect of his movies: the square dances, the drunk Irishmen, all that optimism, and those same faces as we see in a million other Ford films.

 That stuff may be a nice complement to a good movie, especially when done right(eg. Fort Apache), but  becomes very tiresome when it's not a very good movie (like Wagon Master, or DATM.
DATM is simply not a very compelling or interesting story. The only thing you may actually find compelling enough to through it is cuz it is Henry Fonda, who is always great to watch.


Drums Along The Mohawk was one of Ford's earlier Westerns; hence it was probably one of the earlier films displaying these Fordisms,

 You may ask: if I got sick of the Fordisms eventually, shouldn't i be placing the blame on a later movie, rather than on DATM,  which was probably among the first to use these Fordisms -- again, the same stock company of supporting actors that add little to the movie, the same square dances, the optimism  about America, the same comedic shit with the drunken idiots?

Two answers:

A) It just so happened that I saw this movie now. Even though it's true that this one is from 1939 and therefore from the earliest of his Westerns, the fact is that I didn't see it until now, after I have already seen so many of his movies in which he does the Fordisms. So by this point, once I've seen the same thing so many times, it gets too tiresome for me. If I had seen this one first, perhaps I would have liked it and not complained about it until I had seen it for the tenth time on a later film.
But more importantly.
B)As I alluded to earlier, not all Fordisms are created equal: It never bothers me when it is part of a great movie, and/or sometimes the Fordisms themselves are actually enjoyable in their own right. I'll use Fort Apache again as an example: it was a great movie, the traditional dances themselves were very cool, plus the song the Irishman sings to the lady was nice, Victor McLaglen played the drunken Irish officer, which is always funny.

--------------

The following is a general point, that does not specifically have to do with DATM:

I really don't get the Ford stock company of actors. The leads, usually Wayne or Fonda, are both legendary, or course. But of all the other males he used repeatedly, the only one that I like is Victor McLaglen. Ben Johnson is pretty good as well, as is Harry Carey, Jr. (I never saw Carey, Sr.) But that is it: I never understood the fascination with eg. Ward Bond and the  so many others that were used repeatedly. I am not saying that these were terrible actors. They were decent enough to occasionally get an important supporting role in a movie. But the same people over and over and over again to be used in such important supporting roles?? No, they certainly were not that good. I never got excited when they came on screen, with the exceptions mentioned above of McLaglen, Ben Johnson, Carey, Jr. (and Maureen O'Hara). I don't know if he just liked working with those he was comfortable/familiar with; or if actually thought they were that good. But they were not that good.

----------------------------------------------


Finally, in the last scene where they say the war is over and they raise the new flag of the United States of America, the final moments are spent as the camera goes in for a few closeups of some individuals that are there smiling toward the new flag (and presumably the prospects of freedom... Of course, Fonda and his wife are shown in the final shot, but eight before that shot, there are just a few closeups; maybe like 4 or so. And of those very few closeups, one of 'em is to the smiling black slavewoman, and anotHer is to an Indian who raises his right hand in allegiance to the flag.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?Huh  Roll Eyes Roll Eyes  You can talk about Ford's "optimism" till you are blue in the face, but those shots are ridiculous. I do not think the blacks or Indians had any sort of immediate gain from the American Revolution, and in certain ways they may have been worse off. The flag, Liberty, equality, the Declaration of Independence (and the forthcoming Constitution) would previously unknown right and assurances of liberty.... if you were white. Even when this movie was made, in 1939, blacks were still suffering from real, institutional barriers in our society, including segregated schools, separate parks and lunch counters, inequality in the judicial system, etc. etc. etc. The first black player wouldn't enter Major League Baseball for another 8 years....

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« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2012, 04:29:23 AM »

Despite it's flaws, this is still probably the best film about the American Revolution - admittedly not a great achievement, as relatively few such films have been made.

I think this film is about the American Revolution about as much as Gone With the Wind is about the Civil War. I think that is a very good comparison; both films are really about how a war that is basically taking place elsewhere, effects these people peripherally.

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« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2012, 04:34:57 AM »

I think this film is about the American Revolution about as much as Gone With the Wind is about the Civil War.

Point being?

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« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2012, 04:42:06 AM »

fairly unromantic depiction of war and frontier life, little or no Ford bumptiousness and marginal sentimentality.

I don't know what movie you watched.

Sure, frontier life is depicted as being a tough existence at first, as it always is. But the community comes together to build them a home and get them started. They have a baby, which is a community event. Replete with the usual comedy by the stock characters, usually involving alcohol, and a priest who is basically a cartoon character. Then the wedding and the usual dances, and Fonda's wife's plea "Please God, make this never end!" which is a tip-off that it will probably end in the very next scene, which it does.

Then, after winning the battle and the war -- aided by some more cartoonish nonsense by the priest, alcoholic-comedy by the guy with the long pipe, and very unfunny scenes between ward Bond and a widow twice his age, we get that closing scene with the new flag, which, as I described at the end of my initial long post above, of course has everyone looking wistfully and respectfully at it, perhaps dreaming of what it represents for the future of liberty....  including a black slavewoman and an Indian (the latter actually raises his right hand at the flag in respect), though that flag only represented liberty for whites: The White Americans winning the Revolution had little positive effect (and perhaps even a negative effect) on the lives of blacks and Indians, until at least somewhere in the range of  5- 9 decades into the future.
No, that slavewoman and that Indian actually had little to smile about, sadly.  Cry

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« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2012, 04:45:46 AM »

Point being?

Point being that it's not really a film about the American Revolution. It's a film about the very peripheral effect that a far-off war is having on some people who, shall we say, aren't exactly on the front lines. IMO Gone With the Wind is not a "film about the Civil War," and neither is this one a "film about the American Revolution."

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