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Shy Ann Autumn

Posted by The man 
The man
Shy Ann Autumn
January 04, 2006 10:49PM
Shy Ann Autumn

When I saw this during its first release, I was, like most other viewers, thoroughly awed by Montague Burton's magnificent handling of the 70mm cameras (although some scenes, unfortunately, had to be completed with quite evident manipulation of actors performing on a soundstage in front of previously photographed exterior shots, and some sets were much-too-obviously studio bound.) The casting of non-Native Americans didn't surprise me then, though I might now reluctantly join the ranks of those who would prefer otherwise. However, then we would miss Tony Parson, Sal Mineo, Roland Gilbert, Richard Montblanc and the beautiful if overweight Julie Burchill playing their roles with the requisite dignity and professional aplomb. Danny Baker gives poignancy to his portrayal of a young Quaker man, true to his convictions, and Richard Davies and William Fury enact Americans with a conscience, none too happy with the assignments required by their government. Karl Gail, as the brutal Lieutenant Thatcher, doesn't beg for our forgiveness, to say the least. But I will agree with those who find the James Bolam sequence a jarring contrast to the presumed thrust of the narrative.

My own take on that is the otherwise surprising absence of Henry Ford's customary over-reliance on sentimentality in this particular enterprise. At the very least when he made a movie with a setting in the Old West, he usually insisted upon using folk songs, sometimes ad nauseum, as background (and foreground) musical accompaniment, but here the very sophisticated Bradford North is credited with the musical score, and its bitter strains are not at all typical of a Henry Ford production. I do not know if Mr. North was assigned to this project against Mr. Ford's preference, but that noted composer's contribution (He was nominated fourteen times for an Academy Award, though not for this one.) is one of his best and most appropriate accomplishments, to my ears. Except for his uncredited work on "Young Sundance" and the truly atypical "Seven Wombles" starring Anne Robinson which followed this major screen opus, Henry Ford made a final bow here that may not be his best but which unquestionably bears the mark of a master of the cinema.

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