review for Drums Along the Mohawk on AllMovie

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
by Michael Costello review

The first of many collaborations between director John Ford and Henry Fonda, this fine, typically Fordian vision of community life also features the director's first use of the then recently developed Technicolor process. A visually appealing slice of Americana, the film places a youthful, yet stoic Fonda in a series of iconic poses as he and his new wife, an incongruously soigné Claudette Colbert struggle to maintain their farm during the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in the Indian-infested Mohawk Valley. As the farmers fight off Indian attacks, with the well-born Colbert learning to adapt to a difficult new environment, the director links self-sacrifice with heroism. As with much of Ford, the characters' behavior is concerned with the enactment of rituals and the display of pageantry, and the main characters, essentially types. He's more willing to allow the character actors, like Oscar-nominated Edna May Oliver, who plays a feisty widow, to indulge in some theatrics. Despite the hardships the farmers must endure, the film's bright look signals an optimism characteristic of the director during this period, perhaps addressing his Depression-era audience about the grit and cohesiveness required to survive in difficult times.