Posts Tagged ‘“Drums Along the Mohawk”’

Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert

Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert

“Drums Along the Mohawk” screens at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 8, 2014 in the Durwood Film Vault of the Kansas City Central Library, 14W. 10th St.  Admission is free. It’s part of the year-long film series Hollywood’s Greatest Year, featuring movies released in 1939.

Director John Ford had a terrific year in 1939.

One of his films from that year, Stagecoach, was instantly recognized as a classic and was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. Plus, it turned around the career of a middling cowboy actor named John Wayne, who thereafter was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.

Another Ford effort from ’39, Young Mr. Lincoln (with Henry Fonda excelling as the future president), is recognized as one of the finest pieces of Americana ever captured on celluloid.

Given the stratospheric acclaim directed at those two landmarks, it’s not unusual that Ford’s third film from ’39, Drums Along the Mohawk, often gets overlooked.

Which is a real shame, since it’s a strong effort that dovetails seamlessly with Ford’s recurring theme of what it means to be an American.

In addition, it was Ford’s first Technicolor film, and right out of the gate he excelled at capturing brilliant, vibrant images.  In fact, he dismissed color as ridiculously easy to work with when compared to black-and-white.

Based on Walter Edmunds’ bestselling novel (it’s still a great read), Drums centers on the Revolutionary War as it was fought on the frontier, with Yankee settlers battling Indian tribes. The Indians have been convinced by the British that as an independent nation, Americans would waste no time in sweeping westward and seizing tribal land, and that their best interests are to be found by siding with the redcoats.

That’s the story’s background.  But the real meat of the yarn lies in the relationship of and Gil and Lana Martin, newlyweds carving a life out of the wilderness.


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