The Sunday Intertitle: Personally Embroidered by Darryl F. Zanuck

The embroidered intertitle is a rare enough beast to be worth remarking on. This one features in John Ford’s DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, and the fact that it’s 1939 (yet also, simultaneously, the American Revolution), makes the appearance of such hand-crafted text all the more remarkable.

The movie needs to fall back on silent narrational technique, (OK still very much a thing in the pre-code era) it turns out, because of its uncommonly loose, baggy structure, itself at least in part a consequence of the shapelessness of the historical events covered. I found that, while I could appreciate the reasons for the episodic approach, I prefer Ford when he has a tighter story to weave (or sew). I’m not a keen enough Fordian to indulge his more rambling yarns, though it was nice to see an Indian character (Chief John Big Tree) treated, despite the inevitable ethnic humour, with enough sympathy that he could be entrusted with the kind of jovial domestic violence joke usually reserved by Ford for the Irish.

“Sir!… Sir!… Here’s a good stick, to beat the lovely lady.”

Henry Fonda is well suited to the frontiersmanship etc, but Ford gets rather an overwrought turn from Claudette Colbert: she perhaps has her limitations, but I have never seen her be shrill and grating and hysterical as she is here. It might be understandable, given the situations, but it’s hardly appealing or fun to watch.

In common with BLOOD AND SAND, the movie delivers quite a lot of value for John Carradine fans, who did great work for Ford the same year in STAGECOACH.

The second-hand DVD I picked up turned out to be a fuzzy, out-of-sync Korean bootleg (“An enjoyable film that is still very good!” cries the blurb) but curious and dedicated Fordians are recommended to the Twilight Time Blu-ray, which purportedly does astonishing justice to the Technicolor work of Ray Rennehan & Bert Glennon.

2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Personally Embroidered by Darryl F. Zanuck”

  1. wow thats my first embroidered intertite…. never seen any other examples

  2. chris schneider Says:

    Such a change from those enjoyable films that *aren’t* very good.

    Never have seen this one. I believe, though, that it was based on a popular historical novel. Perhaps the film presumed knowledge on the part of an audience already familiar with the novel?

    So often Ford seems to encourage amplified, caricature-ish performances. Perhaps Colbert was responding to this?

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