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Monday, January 06, 2020

Ford's New Firm Shoots Self In Foot

Argosy/RKO Lends Artistic Effect to Publicity Stills Prepared for The Fugitive

Argosy Off To Disaster Start With The Fugitive (1947)


A Catholic Boy's Choir For Stage Accompany ... Inspired!
What was John Ford thinking? He and Merian C. Cooper establish an independent company, and right away he makes this turgid thing to land them in a hole from which there's no digging out, despite success of Fort Apache that followed. The Fugitive wound up cross-collateral with Argosy follow-ups (Ford/Cooper's indie label), and so became an anchor to ultimately pull them and creative freedom under. I can but imagine how Cooper, not to mention bankers and RKO, begged Ford not to venture forth with The Fugitive, but JF was famously irascible, and sometimes reason was the last thing he'd listen to. Something about this downer property appealed to him. Well, nobody whacks the ball every time, but for all its fleas, The Fugitive does have moments to awaken us, particularly where high-definition enters play. Being the best of it is visual, amazing visuals, there is at last a square deal for The Fugitive now that we can access it in HD (via Amazon and whenever at TCM). Best, then, to seek it out that way, for here's one that really was made for, and depends upon, pristine presentation.






That was never possible till now, RKO's material being compromised as it was after glories of first-run 35mm nitrate. The Fugitive was never reissued, so a next sighting after 1947 was misery of 16mm on free-vee, these broadcasts a blight on effects Ford and company strove toward on Mexico location. Elements of The Fugitive remind us of The Informer, the giant critical success Ford had in 1935, also for RKO and with producing partner Cooper. The Informer had actually made money with unlikely subject matter, so maybe The Fugitive wasn't so hare-brained after all, at least going in. Ford was ornery enough to maintain this as his favorite film, but I wonder if he actually looked at it again after commercial crash of initial release. Some critics hailed The Fugitive, it being pretension's kind of fare and ideally suited to ones who pitched camp at art houses. Now it is curiosity for Fordists who strive mightily to admire what the master tried to achieve, but would screen Fort Apache ten times for every tortured once of The Fugitive. I'm admittedly of that group, having served my time, and comfortably back at Monument Valley where Ford fun is likelier to be had.

1 Comments:

Blogger Charles W Callahan said...

I do think you had too much fun disliking this film, but I can't disagree with you. But, for the supporting cast alone I like it.

11:21 AM  

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