The HORSE SOLDIERS
The HORSE SOLDIERS
, 115min, OF
<i>The Horse Soldiers</i>, John Ford's only attempt at tackling the subject of the Civil War, is based on Grierson's Raid, part of the Union's assault on Vicksburg in April 1863. After a number of failed efforts at taking the Southern stronghold, Union leaders assign Col. John Marlowe (John Wayne), a railroad designer in civilian life, to lead a cavalry detachment to destroy a vital railroad hub at Newton Station, far behind Confederate lines. Marlowe's unit includes Major Kendall (William Holden), a cynical physician disgusted by the notion that there's glory in the carnage, and the politically ambitious Colonel Secord (Willis Bouchey). Marlowe temporarily appropriates the plantation of Southerner Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers) while in transit and is forced to take her along, in lieu of killing her, after she overhears his plans for Newton Station. As their journey continues, Marlowe realizes that he is much more interested in Hannah than in her political sympathies. Wayne and Holden give gritty, soulful performances, and William Clothier's photography is outstanding in a film that delves beneath simplistic notions of heroism to reveal something more complicated, grisly, and real.
My father came to this country to fight. You<i> can call it the Civil War, but my wife is from South Carolina, so we call it the War Between the States in this house. My father had two brothers and a brother-in-law. One was in the Confederate Army, and two were in the Union Army. When he arrived, the war was over. I asked him once, «Which side were you going to fight for?» And he answered, «Either side.»
My wifes father was a Confederate, and both her grandfathers were Confederate colonels. Sherman burned her house down. She wasnt alive at the time, of course. But she was brought up on those stories. I had two uncles in the Union Army and one in the Confederate Army. In deference to my wife, I keep quiet about the ones in the Union Army. If you go down to the library, you will see a regimental flag that was made about the time of Appomattox. It came down to my wife. Its a very faint, very old Confederate flag. Ask my daughter Barbara to show it to you. She is a Student of history, but its all Louis XIV, XV and XVI. Right now shes on a Henry VIII kick.</i>
John Ford talking with Walter Wagner, 1973