April 5, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
He was obsessed with communities, and the John Ford Stock Company was his own community: stars and bit players; men and women; white, black, Indian and others. While familiar faces can’t assure a Ford picture’s greatness — as ever in Hollywood, certain films were compromised beyond easy redemption — they are always a virtue, both for their individuality and their general function in the Fordian cosmos.
Most prolific of their number was Jack Pennick, an ex-Marine who, though usually uncredited, appeared in 47 Ford pictures, starting with 1935’s near-Melvillean confidence man disquisition, Steamboat Round The Bend and concluding in the Ford-directed Civil War segment of 1962’s Cerberus-like Cinerama epic How The West Was Won. One picture where Pennick did receive a screen credit, as Sgt. Daniel Shattuck, was Fort Apache (1948), one of Ford’s most disquieting meditations on duty, ritual and otherness. Co-starring John Wayne (27 screen appearances for Ford) and Henry Fonda (9), others in the cast included the brilliant Ward Bond (26); Ford’s older brother Francis (32), as ever the embodiment of crudity; Norwegian-born Harry Tenbrook (26); Victor McLaglen (12) and Anna Lee (8, from How Green is My Valley in 1941 to the valedictory Seven Women in 1966).
Fort Apache is also notable as the second — after the epochal Stagecoach (1939) — of an eventual ten movies Ford would shoot amid the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah on land owned by the Navajo Nation. Here’s where things get tricky. Though a fanatical reader of history, Ford is bound less by historical “facts” than impressions. So, in Fort Apache, Navajo are cast as White Mountain, Mescalero and Chiricahua Apaches, while Chief Cochise is played by a Mexican, Miguel Inclán (2), who speaks through a Mexican-American U.S. Army interpreter, Pedro Armendáriz (3). “We looked to the Great White Father for protection,” says Ford’s Cochise. “He gave us slow death.” Today, the boldness of this statement reminds us that like Ford’s least known masterpiece, The Sun Shines Bright (1953), the justly venerated The Searchers (1957) is a non-didactic critique of American intolerance.
The affection between Ford and the Navajo was real and lasting; they gave him the honorary name Natani Nez, “Tall Leader,” and though their on-screen treatment varied, he was always mindful of their dignity. In the deceptively lyrical Mormon travelogue Wagon Master (1950), the Navajo — complemented by Sac and Fox sports hero turned Hollywood bit player, Jim Thorpe — even play themselves, speak their own language and none of their number die, an event worthy of one of picture’s gloriously exhortatory Jane Darwell (9) horn blasts.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Anthony Miller on TBD | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | TBD on TBD | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Luc Sante on THE BOUZINGOS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Mimi Lipson on TBD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Cintra Wilson on TBD | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACK LIPS PERFORMANCE CULT | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Gary Panter on TBD | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Molly Wright Steenson on TBD | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Anshuman Idamsetty on TBD | Jenny Offill on TBD | Kio Stark on TBD | Douglas Rushkoff on TBD | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Anindita Basu Sempere on TBD | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | TBD on TBD.
#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.