Arlecchino Cinema > 14:00


John Ford
Introduced by

Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française)


Saturday 01/07/2017


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The lesser known and less valued of Ford’s astounding 1939 output (the other two were Stagecoach and Young Mr. Lincoln) and his first colour film ever, Drums along the Mohawk is, probably, a much underrated film owing to several presumptions and some disappointed expectations. In the first place, it turns out (as with so many other Ford movies) not to be a western, but geographically quite an eastern, certainly with Indians and pioneers, and even with war, although not the Civil War but the War of Independence, not in the 19th but in the 18th century. And, though it stars the already ‘Fordian’ Henry Fonda, his co-star is the not very Fordian (although she’s very good here) Claudette Colbert.
One might wonder if this might be the film which Ford was filming when, according to that more or less legendary tale (but likely and much in character), some sort of assistant to the producer complained that the shooting was lagging well behind schedule, to which Ford replied by tearing out several pages of the script and telling him not to worry, “Now we are on schedule”, because there is a magnificent scene in which, instead of a battle, the injured, exhausted Fonda tells his wife what happened in it, in a way much more effective and affecting than the actual showing of the battle would have achieved. And it was, no doubt, shorter and easier to shoot and much less expensive. Although, if I recall it well, it was Joseph LaShelle who told that story to Peter Bogdanovich, and LaShelle only photographed a Ford movie, and that was much later, 7 Women (1966). However, since Drums along the Mohawk was a Fox production and most of LaShelle’s career was at that production company, perhaps Bert Glennon or Ray Rennahan, the two cameramen on this first Ford colour film, had told this revealing anecdote about Ford, who usually combined digression and ellipses in most of his narratives, no doubt because he liked to tell things in a rather roundabout way, so he usually alternated the addition of some scenes with the elision of others.

Miguel Marías

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Walter D. Edmonds. Scen.: Lamar Trotti, Sonya Levien. F.: Bert Glennon, Ray Rennahan. M.: Robert Simpson. Scgf.: Richard Day, Mark-Lee Kirk. Mus.: Alfred Newman. Int.: Claudette Colbert (Magdelana ‘Lana’ Martin), Henry Fonda (Gilbert Martin), Edna May Oliver (Mrs. McKlennar), Eddie Collins (Christian Reall), John Carradine (Caldwell), Dorris Bowdon (Mary Reall), Jessie Ralph (Mrs. Weaver). Prod.: Darryl F. Zanuck per 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. 35mm. D.: 104’. Technicolor.