Feb 072013
They Were Expendable

Rating: ★★★½☆
Having seen WWII firsthand, including the Battle of Midway and the Normandy invasion, director John Ford was determined that his first post-war film would show the stark truth of the failed defence of the Philippines in 1942. Although set in the Philippines, much of the movie takes place in shadowy interiors as the Japanese siege of Bataan gradually tightens. The movie may appear unbearably wholesome to modern viewers but it showed post-war audiences the hard choices and sacrifices that had been made early in the war. Based on the real-life exploits of Lieutenant John Bulkeley, commander of a PT squadron in the Philippines, Bulkeley himself was surprised by the authentic feel of the movie. Read More…

Feb 282011
True Grit (1969) vs True Grit (2010)

I realize that I am probably in the minority but I prefer Henry Hathaway’s version of True Grit to the Coen Brothers’ version. What is especially odd is that I am a big fan of the Coen Brothers and I have never really been that impressed by Hathaway. The key factor is undoubtedly John Wayne’s performance. Wayne had done Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966), which were basically two versions of the same story, with Howard Hawks, and the best role in each movie was the drunk. Despite Wayne’s lobbying for that role in each movie, Hawks had decided to play it safe and go with renowned drunkards Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum, leaving Wayne to be the straight man. Read More…

Jun 062009
Dark Command

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
While Dark Command is entertaining and surprisingly dark for 1940, it completely airbrushes the savagery that made the fighting in the Missouri-Kansas region a particularly brutal part of the Civil War. Along with Santa Fe Trail, which was made the same year and also deals with Bleeding Kansas, the film attempts to paper over the deep divisions that had caused the Civil War in an effort to unite northerners and southerners as the United States seemed increasingly likely to enter WWII. Read More…

Jan 142008
John Wayne

John Wayne’s popularity is reflected in his record of being among the top ten box office draws for twenty-five years in a row. His on-screen image was the ideal independent man and he symbolized America, especially since the majority of his films were Westerns or war movies. Famous for his conservative political beliefs and passionate anti-communism, he had failed to serve his country during WWII. Although he worked with several of Hollywood’s best directors, including Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway, he is so associated with John Ford that he seems to have been Ford’s alter ego. Read More…

Nov 232007
The Alamo (1960)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
The Alamo (1960), John Wayne’s directorial debut, is entertaining, but stretches the facts horribly, transforming the Texan Revolution from a rebellion by American immigrants who wanted to continue their practice of slavery into a defence of liberty against tyranny. Read More…