Monday, October 26, 2009

Drums Along the Mohawk

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) was directed by John Ford and stars Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. Supporting cast includes Edna May Oliver, John Carradine, Ward Bond, and Eddie Collins.

It is a technicolor film based upong a 1936 novel of the same name by American author Walter D. Edmonds.

In 1776, American colonists Gilbert Martin (Henry Fonda) and Lana Borst (Claudette Colbert) marry and leave her family home in Albany, New York to settle in Deerfield, a frontier of the Mohawk Valley in central New York.

Lana has difficulty adjusting to frontier life, but is soon working the farm alongside her husband. Her first night in Deerfield she is terrified to the point of hysteria when a local friendly Indian Blue Back (Chief John Big Tree) pays the new couple a visit.

The American Revolution begins and the local Indians are being led by a Tory named Caldwell (John Carradine). Caldwell and the Indians burn every home to the ground including the Martins. Lana is pregnant at the time and miscarries when their home is burned and they are forced to seek shelter in Fort Herkimer.

Peace is temporarily restored in the valley (although the Revolution continues) and with winter approaching, Gil and Lana accept work and shelter on the farm of a wealthy widow Mrs. McKlennar (Edna May Oliver).

Another attack by the Tories and the Indians threatens the valley and the miltia is called up. Gil Martin promptly joins the minutemen. Mrs. McKlennar and Lana are ordered to take shelter in Fort Herkimer but Mrs. McKlennar refuses.

The poorly trained setllers barely mange to defeat the enemy at Oriskany. Gil returns home badly wounded. He is nursed back to health. Mrs. McKlennar's home is turned into a temporary hospital for the wounded settlers. .

Life once agains returns to nomality, although the American Revolution continues. The Martin's are still working for Mrs. McKlennar and the community of Deerfield is slowly rebuilding. Lana and Gil welcome the birth of their son. But life in the valley will soon change.

The enemy once again attack the settlers, led by Caldwell. This time they burn Mrs. McKlennar's home to the ground. The settlers take refuge in Fort Herkimer. Mrs. McKlennar is killed and ammunition runs short. The settlers realize someone must get to Fort Dayton for help. The person who is selected must make it through enemy lines to secure help. The first person to attempt to get to Fort Dayton, is captured and killed. Gil then decides to try to make it to Fort Dayton for help.

While Gil is gone, the Indians and the Tories are closing in on the Fort. Will help from Fort Dayton arrive in time? Will Gil make it to Fort Dayton or will the three Indians chasing him catch him before he can get help?

Edna May Oliver was nominated for an Acadmey Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She steals every scene she is in. She is fiesty and will not back down for anyone. For example, when she is ordered to take refuge in the Fort the first time, she refuses, saying this is her home and she can handle anything that comes her way. When the Indians come and are burning down her house, she won't leave and actually physically fights with the Indians. Gil has to forcibly remover her and take her to the fort. When the Indians are attacking the Fort, she is fighting right alongside the men.

I really enjoyed this movie and I highly recommend it.

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