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Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)


What an astonishing year for Hollywood was 1939. And John Ford alone made Young Mr Lincoln, Stagecoach, and this, his first attempt at directing a Technicolor production at Darryl F. Zanuck’s Twentieth Century-Fox. The novel about the Revolutionary Wars in central New York by Walter D. Edmonds was adapted by Sonya Levien and Lamar Trotti, two of the finest screenwriters at the time. Being Fox, DFZ made sure everything moved at a gallop. Claudette Colbert joins new husband Henry Fonda at his frontier home to start married life and he joins the local militia since there is war in the air. Their home is attacked and destroyed, she miscarries and they accept work at the home of the redoubtable Edna May Oliver, a prosperous widow.  All is peaceable until the British approach with a party of Indians and Fonda is injured in the affray. After their son is born, the raids on the settlements recommence …  This is rousing, exciting, funny and sweet in equal measure. Ford’s shot composition is magnificent even if the historians take issue with the overall accuracy of the story’s detail. Oliver – if you haven’t checked out her Hildegarde Withers movies, do – is brilliant and got an Academy Award nomination. (She died just 3 years later but what antecedents – John Quincy Adams and John Adams!) The cinematography by Ray Rennahan and Bert Glennon is exquisite. Happy Independence Day!

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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