Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert play newlyweds in New York's Mohawk Valley at the time of the Revolutionary War. That war is more a distant rumor than a direct concern of people with cabins to raise, crops to harvest, and firstborn on the way. When it comes to their valley, in the form of hitherto-peaceable Indians whipped up by a gaunt Tory with an eyepatch (John Carradine), life changes as though with the passing of a cloud shadow.
In this, his first color film, Ford created indelible images of the dawning of America: a lone wagon making its way through acres of long grass rippling in the wind; the Indians, at the onset of their first raid, seeming to materialize out of the mist, out of the very trunks of trees; a ragged line of farmers with flintlocks passing along a split-rail fence, then resolving into a column, an army, marching toward a distant horizon. (Utah's Wasatch mountain country stands in persuasively for upstate New York in pioneer days.) Edna May Oliver scored a best-supporting-actress Oscar nomination as a memorably crusty frontier widow, while Ward Bond--oddly omitted from the opening credits--claimed a place of honor in the John Ford Stock Company playing Fonda's best friend. --Richard T. Jameson
"Drums Along the Mohawk" does not start off as a movie about the American Revolution. Instead it begins as a movie about settling the frontier, which, at that point, was upstate New York. The focus is on a pioneer couple, newlyweds, Gilbert (Henry Fonda) and Magdalena (Claudette Colbert), called Lana. Martin is a farmer who brings his bride to the Mohawk Valley where their home is burned out by Indians allied with the British. The couple are taken in by neighbors after that happens and Martin joins the militia, but the settlers are going to need more men than that to fight the Indians and save the fort from attack.
Based on a novel by Walter D. Edmonds the screenplay for "Drums Along the Mohawk" is by Sonya Levien and Lamar Trotti, although William Faulkner worked on it without receiving credit as well. Edmonds' history novels were all set in upstate New York and "Drums Along the Mohawk" is about the warfare between the settlers and the Six Nations of the Iroquois allied with the British.Read more ›
Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert play Gil and Lana Martin, the newlywed couple struggling to survive. Both are very good and believable as husband and wife. This was a good period for Fonda when he made The Grapes of Wrath around this time. There is an excellent supporting cast, most notably Ward Bond as Adam, Gil's friend and neighbor, Edna Mae Oliver as the widow Mrs. McLenard, who puts up Gil and Lana when their house is destroyed. She has some incredibly funny scenes especially when some marauding Indians invade her house, but she refuses to leave even as they drag her out on her bed. This is an excellent movie with a great cast and excellent story. Do not miss this Revolutionary War classic!