Director John Ford began his trilogy of the bluecoat versus Indian trilogy with FORT APACHE in 1948. The film was such a hit that he quickly followed with a pair of sequels, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON and RIO GRANDE. John Wayne played basically the same character in each, a grizzled, weary veteran of the Indian wars who is one of the few people in any of the three films who sees the Indians sympathetically. In FORT APACHE, he is Captain Kirby York, who has to adjust to being in second command to a martinet of a commander, Colonel Owen Thursday, played by Henry Fonda in only one of two unsympathetic roles in a very long film career (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is the other). Captain York wants to bring an end to the Indian wars, so he meets Cochise and Geronimo and gives them his word that they will be treated fairly. Of course, Colonel Thursday decides to attack the Indians in a surprise assault that fools nobody. Colonel Thursday is seen as a clone of General Custer who had much the same idea of surprising 5,000 Indian warriors. It is hard to find any sympathy for Thursday. Every word that he utters is starkly unemotional. He is about as fair with the Indians as he is with his own daughter Philadelphia (Shirley Temple) when he refuses consent to her marriage with a dashing cavalry lieutenant played by the blandly handsome John Agar, who, in real life, married Shirley soon after the film was released. The highlight of the film is a characteristic of John Ford, a smashingly effective use of onrushing troopers led into a cavalry charge with a bugler tooting the way. The battle scene of trooper versus Indian inevitably draws comparison with the real life massacre of the 7th Cavalry under General Custer. The role of the Indian in this and the other two installments is one of the few instances in which the Indian is not seen as the inherently bad guy. In fact, Cochise and Geronimo were both willing to abide by a verbal treaty and Colonel Thursday's verbal harangue of the two proud chiefs clearly invests them with some sympathy. The viewer is left with the distinct impression that if the west had had more Captain Yorks and fewer Colonel Thursdays, then the history of the wild west might have been written in much less blood.