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September 10, 2009


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Earthworm Jim

This is great news. I've been wanting to see this for years ever since I read Dave Kehr's capsule review, which I think pretty much called it one of the greatest films of all time. The heartbreak was that I recorded it off TCM last year but it got erased in a mysterious DVR purge. So I'm pleased, to say the least, that a DVD is forthcoming.

Hopefully the DVD gods will smile on us and provide that other Ford holy grail, "The Sun Shines Bright."


For decades I've been telling folks that "Wagonmaster" is just about a perfect film and I've gotten looks of puzzlement from even the most sincere cineastes. Then, after they see it, they have often gotten in touch to share their appreciation and amazement. I'm delighted to learn that it will finally get an appropriate treatment, and thanks, Mr. K, for this fine reminder of its many, many wonders (in such a small package, too...).


(For the record, I've often recommended "Wagon Master," too. Sheesh. Nite nite....)


I'm also very excited this is out on DVD. It has pretty tough competition, but "Wagon Master" is my favorite John Ford film. I'm happy that more folks will get a chance to see it now!


Forty years ago, I read William Everson's history of film Westerns as an undergrad, a literate and empassioned treatment of a genre that, even then, was fast-receding from the mainstream. His exaltation of WAGON MASTER was convincing enough that I searched for years....

N. Beery

A terrific film. Which begat, a few years later, the TV series 'Wagon Train'-- also starring Ward Bond -- which in turn inspired a TV writer named Gene Rodenberry to pitch NBC a show he called 'Star Trek.' ("A 'Wagon Train' to the stars," is how he described it.)

Now you've got me looking for my (autographed!) copy of Harry Carey Jr.'s 'Company of Heroes' -- an indispensable part of any Ford library -- to read his wide-eyed retelling of an on-set incident involving Bond and a pack of wild dogs Ford wanted to include in a scene. If I recall correctly, said incident ends with Bond having his pants ripped open and Pappy laughing uncontrollably. Good times!

Thanks for the heads up!


I have loved this movie since first I saw it many years ago, but watching it, I have never been able to shake the feeling that I'm waiting for Duke Wayne to ride into the frame. More fool me. He's so not needed here.


No, Duke isn't missed. Ben Johnson is just beautiful in this movie. He projects a profoundly satisfying sense of ease -- a bit ironic since apparently on the sets of his first few movies he was all nerves.

Arthur S.


WAGON MASTER was Ford's own favourite of all his movies.

It was the closest the Old Man ever came to making a musical!!!

The Siren

One of these days I am going to total up all the money I've spent on Glenn's recs, and if I keep reading this blog I'll eventually have the equivalent of an Hermes bag.

In crocodile, yet...

craig keller.

And 'Wagon Train' (the TV series) in turn came to encapsulate a Ford-directed episode from 1960 called "The Colter Craven Story," which stands as one of Ford's supreme works, as essential as 'Wagon Master,' 'Doctor Bull,' 'Wee Willie Winkie,' 'The Battle of Midway,' 'They Were Expendable,' 'The Sun Shines Bright,' 'Mogambo,' 'The Long Gray Line,' 'The Civil War,' 'Donovan's Reef,' and the list goes forward and backward and on.


"as essential as 'Wagon Master,' 'Doctor Bull,' 'Wee Willie Winkie,' 'The Battle of Midway,' 'They Were Expendable,' 'The Sun Shines Bright,' 'Mogambo,' 'The Long Gray Line,' 'The Civil War,' 'Donovan's Reef,'"

-- Like a true auteurist believer, you've zeroed in on some of Ford's most ignored or reviled films and held them up as his "supreme works." I can't argue with THEY WERE EXPENDABLE or THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT, and I adore the sun-baked deep-focus and powerful emotional modulations of WEE WILLIE WINKIE. And I could add neglected favorites like PILGRIMAGE, AIR MAIL, and STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND....


Granted, some of the reputations of these now-canonical works were the product of long-ago revisionism. But there's revisionism, and then there are auteurist parlor games....


Um, I think Mr. Keller was just citing some late Ford films, for the most part. Hence "the list goes forward and backward and on."


DOCTOR BULL, WEE WILLIE WINKIE, THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY, and THEY WERE EXPENDABLE are not late Fords. But I'll grant him the "forward and backward" clause.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jonah: I don't think Craig's playing any kind of parlor game. The Ford filmography is plenty deep, and the riches of, say, "The Long Gray Line," "Expendable," and the others he cites make them much more than esoteric, auteurist-only fare. "The Civil War," his contribution to "How The West Was Won," a love letter to silent cinema in a supposedly new format, is film poetry at its most individual. No sirree, this is real stuff that Craig's talking about.


I know they are great works (well, I can't really get behind DONOVAN'S REEF), it just strikes me as a bit... contrarian to hold _that_ particular set of films as the "supreme works" and exclude things like the more well-known works I've listed. Contrarian, but also a bit coy.

Glenn Kenny

Maybe. But I just might have a look at "Reef" tonight. Or "Doctor Bull."...


I thought the big revisionist fan fave these days was 7 Women. Speaking of which, is there a DVD of that? I've never seen it.


7 WOMEN is a favorite of at least two of the better Ford scholars: McBride and Gallagher. I can't recall what Sarris (in his undervalued THE JOHN FORD MOVIE MYSTERY) has to say about it, but I think he had cautious praise. I find it pretty impressive in a lot of respects, although the outlandish villains, the hideous sets, and the somewhat... variable quality of the acting (it's weird to see Ford allow so much hysterics) compromise it for me.

To my knowledge, there's no DVD. There _was_ a laserdisc, a rip of which is floating around the internets.

Blake Lucas

it should be added that WAGON MASTER is also a favorite of both McBride and Gallagher, likely if they chose one that would be it.

I'm pretty much there too. I think it's his most perfect film, but THE SEARCHERS, which has its share of flaws, compensating for them by being so magisterial overall. So which is better? It's really hard to choose. My top three is rounded out by DONOVAN'S REEF, which I mentioned just because someone here seemed to question anyone claiming that one for a masterpiece.

But I think several dozen of Ford's films are masterpieces, and plenty of others close enough.

THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT and 7 WOMEN are the best ones now most in need of a DVD release.


I remember reading this entry back in Sept and eagerly looking forward to watching this film that was previously unknown to me. Got a chance to view it last night in a hotel room in Marshall, TX and its every bit as beautiful as you describe.

The shots of the horses and wagons straining at the river crossings are majestic. Ford and Glennon knew exactly where to put the camera to capture 'nature' in that way. Harry Carey, Jr.'s commentary is a real treat, has he done commentary on other DVDs? My one criticism is that there is not more of the Sons of the Pioneers.

Thanks Glenn for bringing this DVD to our attention, it one of many reasons why I'm a devout reader of SCR.


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