Katy said it didn’t feel very JohnFordian, but it did to me, because two thirds of my previous John Ford experience consisted of Judge Priest and The Sun Shines Bright. Takes place in a small town in the south – there’s mob violence and a courtroom climax, and along the way we hear “Dixie” more than once. Sounds extremely Fordian to me. In fact I’m thinking Atlanta-born writer Lamar Trotti, who also cowrote Judge Priest, could stand to vary his game.
Two simple men and their simple mother (Alice Brady, the mom in My Man Godfrey, in her final film) were enjoying simple pleasures in town when they got in a fight with a blowhard and he ended up dead. Blowhard’s buddy Ward Bond (John Wayne’s old friend in Rio Bravo) says they stabbed the blowhard, so off to jail they go. Fortunately, hat-wearing slave-freeing superhero Abe Lincoln (Henry Fonda with a fake nose, looking spookily Lincolnesque in the occasional profile shot) stops the angry lynch mob by picking on them one at a time (a la Sun Shines Bright) and agrees to defend the kids, in between watching his girlfriend (Pauline Moore) die and meeting a new girlfriend (Marjorie Weaver, the lady in The Cisco Kid And The Lady). It’s all based on a completely true story! Except that it was a blunt weapon, not a knife, and the accused men weren’t brothers, and one of them (the one not defended by Lincoln) was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for six years, and Lincoln got the other guy acquitted but there was no sneaky buddy to take the fall instead.
Movie slides along peacefully and slowly builds. Very pretty in parts. I’d need to read more or study further to figure why this was one of Sergei Eisenstein’s favorite films… missing something, as usual.