What is America for Mummy?

[This is Jessica’s first post here, and it started the theme we have been writing about this week, The Myth of America. I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of ordered liberty above all, but also of material prosperity.

And in the last 150 years or so it has come to include those unfortunates who were sold by their neighbors into slavery and came here without that choice to make. From all I read, they too have done much better than those who were left behind. Not that America has not been unkind to them, and still is, especially in the areas controlled by the party of slavery – the Democrats.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marveling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever, but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation built around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to the army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

Yesterday’s post started an excellent discussion amongst two of my colleagues, first at Jess’s “All along the Watchtower” and now at “On the Pilrim Road“. They have some interesting thoughts on our situation and indeed on the very name Liberty Valance. If you missed them I urge you to return to the comments on that post.

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Myths,legends and facts

lvalad

In his comment on Audre’s post yesterday Pontiac said this, ” I find a simple comfort about them. There’s no complexity about them and even the conflict and politics is elementary – you have it, I want it! For the most part, though, the characters are just hardworking, close to the land and want to build something, whether it be their farm or family”.

I suspect for many of us that’s true, but for the best of the westerns, well Pilgrim, they go a lot deeper. Jessica explained it this way:

“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newpaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Vallance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shoot out – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It;s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Soddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gun fighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!

Let’s think about that a little. How far is that from what we’re seeing these days in Minneapolis, in Seattle, in Chicago and New York, and yes, in London as well? Yes, Tom Stoddard was apocryphal but he existed all across this country, and it’s to him as much as to Jefferson and Madison that we owe the rule of law, the belief that might should be on the side of right.

When we talk about the western as the myth of America that is what we mean, the bringing of civilization out of the chaos. And don’t think for a minute that England never knew men lake Tom Stoddard. They did, William Marshal, First Earl of Pembroke is one of them, a warrior knight who made his fortune fighting in tournaments and wars, he is the man, acting with Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury who made Magna Charta the law for us all.

Jess was right here too when she said, “[…] and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.”

That is the legacy of the men that Antifa and BLM are so busy trying to make us forget. Why? Because they are the men that built our civilization, that their deepest desire is to destroy. Abraham Lincoln said that America is “the last best hope of mankind”. How right he was, if we in this generation go down, there will be nowhere left to run.

Myths,legends and facts

 

lvalad

Jessica wrote a post a few years ago, about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As with all of hers here it was outstanding, and makes a point, as well. First, let’s reread it.


“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newspaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Valance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began a quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shootout – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It’s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Stoddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gunfighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie, and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!


Pretty much what we are seeing in the world, isn’t it? Cast Trump as Doniphon, (although one who talks quite a lot, perhaps too much, no analogy is perfect).

The never Trumpers as Stoddard, who are all for the good (conservative) things in life, but just can’t quite find the guts or skills to make them happen. In other words, they end up as all talk and no action, because their knickers are always in a twist. They’re nice guys (or they were, before getting so embittered). They were a good support during the locust (Obama) years, keeping us motivated, but when it became time to do something, well you see the result. Not entirely their fault, they have neither the temperament nor the requisite skills for this part of the mission.

So we have to go back to the old ways for a time, when Ollie Winchester and Sam Colt spoke for us, so the orators could be heard. Not literally, of course, but it is a time for plain speaking, the theoretical constructs can wait. We needed both Tom Jefferson and George Washington back in the day.

Then there is Valance – or quite a number of them.

There is the Occasional Cortex wing of the Demonrat party, who want nothing so much as to wind down this experiment called the United States, even though, or maybe because, it has been wildly successful, but didn’t give them power over others.

There’s what we have taken to calling the ‘Deep State’, the bureaucrats who think they are doing a job for us, but really are all about keeping their perks and power no matter what, and no matter who they hurt to make it so. See those guys who wanted to keep the Territory, the Territory, not a State

Then there are the legitimate opponents, foreign powers ranging from untrustworthy (sometimes) friends like Canada and the UK, to competitors like Russia and China, right on down to enemies like North Korea and Iran. These guys are at least openly fighting for themselves, but in truth, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about them.

All in all, it makes Tom Doniphan’s task in Liberty Valance look pretty simple. There is no magic target here, that will give us clear sailing, and clean up Shinbone. All we can do is keep on doing what we have done, what Doniphan, and so many others taught us to do, fight, preferably non violently, for the right thing, and keep fighting until we win through, even if it costs us the girl.

What is America for, Mummy?

Well we’re coming up on Christmas, and while there is plenty to write about, I’m out of the mood. This has been a year filled with winning for the old America, that many of us remember and cherish so much. Along with that I’m remembering my dearest friend, Jessica, and how she so often filled in for me here, and how I enjoyed her insights. So let’s go back to her very first post here, actually a repost from her blog, and yes, it goes to the heart of why so many of us (and not all of us Americans) love America so dearly. The last best hope. Let us hope we can live up to our legacy. Neo

[This is one of Jessica’s first posts here, I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of freedom above all, but also of material prosperity.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo, 15 February 2014]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation build around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

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Myths,legends and facts

lvalad

I don’t know about you guys, but one of the greatest pleasures of this site for me, is going into the archives and reading what we have written, especially for me what Jessica has written. She has a gift, of drawing lessons for us from many things, and making them stick. And mind, there is a lesson here for us all. So let’s share one of my favorites.


“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newpaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Vallance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shoot out – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It’s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Soddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gun fighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!

Ford, Wayne and the old West

 

Screen-Shot-2013-03-09-at-11.50.38-PM

Before we enter the Easter period, I want to spend one more post looking at the world created by John Ford and John Wayne. I will leave it to learned film historians (if they still looks at these films) to tell us the obvious in long words, but for many of us, these films are our mediated access to the myths of the old West. They could still write about ‘Red Indians’ and depict the coming of the White man as a good thing. But no one who has sat through The Searchers as many times as I have, or who has seen She wore a Yellow Ribbon could think Ford took a simplistic or triumphalist point of view. He sees the same manly virtues he admires in the ‘Indians’, and many of the white men who double deal with them are morally abhorrent and far lesser characters than those whom they fool; but nor does Ford fall for the ‘noble savage’ cliché, either. War is war, and in it men do awful things – it happens on both sides. Ethan Edwards, the character played by Wayne in The Searchers is morally ambiguous to say the least – and a challenge to those who claimed Wayne always played himself. As Ward Bond’s character, the Rev Captain Samuel Taylor, the captain of the Texas Rangers, says “Ethan fits a lot of descriptions.” In search of his niece, Debbie, he is quite as capable of cold-blooded savagery as any of the ‘savages’ he kills, and when, after five years of searching, he finds she is the wife of a Comanche chief, he’d rather kill her than save her, and is only prevented from doing so by his companion, Brad, who was engaged to Debbie’s sister, Lucy, who was kidnapped, raped and killed by the Comanche. In the end, he scalps the Comanche chief, and we’re left in doubt until the end whether he will still kill Debbie. He doesn’t, and the films ends with Wayne silhouetted in the door between one life and an uncertain future.

This is a world as morally ambiguous as any modern film maker could want – and it was produced in 1956, so much for the view that back then it was all black and white. The unspoken fear of the whites is portrayed brilliantly – miscegenation is to be avoided at all costs – hence Ethan wanting to kill Debbie. There is, in all of that, a real historical theme, and there are many documented cases of white women being taken – just as there are of white soldiers raping Indian women; as usual in war, women end up as trophies of one sort of another. Ethan’s most savage moments are inspired by his revulsion at the idea, and it is clear that for the whites, being the wife of a Comanche buck is the proverbial fate worse than death. We are dealing here with themes of genocide and racial purity – and only a decade after the Second World War ended. There are no ‘good guys’ here – even Scar, the Comanche chief, is motivated by the fact his sons have been killed by the whites.

This is the state of nature, the war of all against all, red in tooth and claw. We see how very thin the veneer of civilization is, and how easily it is scratched away – and we glimpse something of what lies beneath it. The film is the most complex of those Ford did with Wayne, and the latter gives one of his best performances – you have to wonder what the Academy were doing that year giving the statuette to Ernest Borgnine for Marty (what, you neither?) – at least Ford got a Golden Globe.

Wayne and Ford at their best offer us a world which is as ambiguous and as troubled as the one in which we live, but it is one in which values matter, and even when not doing it, as Ethan almost does not, the characters know what wrong is. These films have lasted, and will last, because they challenge us to live up to values which are eternal.

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