This 1939 Technicolor classic, starring a very handsome Henry Fonda and a gutsy Claudette Colbert, is a wonderful historical epic (directed by the great John Ford) that will help you and the kids while away a wintry Sunday afternoon. A story of Colonial struggle in the 1700s, your kids will absorb a bit of history, spiced up with a wagonful of nail-biting adventure.
The Revolutionary War was brewing, and the British were luring American Indians to their side, using them to fight a young, upstart America trying to get on its feet. Colbert's character, Lana, comes from a family of comfort and privilege in the city, and marrying Gilbert (Fonda) means moving with him to the wilds of upstate New York, to his small, log cabin outpost. Surviving a rocky transition, she eventually takes to the task with gusto, and after the first tragic run-in with the natives leaves them homeless, she rolls up her sleeves and is ever more determined.
She's a spunky one.
The next hour and a half quite vividly conveys the pain and horror of war in all its shadings. There are British/Indian raids, torched homes and crops, amputations and unpleasant deaths, miscarried babies, and all kinds of other unhappy events.
But, the American spirit triumphs!
(And of course, this being a 1939 movie, the drama is no more intense than that in, say, Gone With The Wind, so you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen Gone With The Wind, right?)
There is one scene that’s a little tough: when our colonists are under siege, they send a man out under cover of night to seek help from the nearest outpost. After fortifying himself with a few swigs of something or other, he sets off, only to be paraded later in front of us, tied to a haywagon that the Indian warriors intend to torch. It’s a pretty horrific idea for kids, no doubt. They don’t burn him alive, but he’s saved from a long and painful death with a short and merciful one.
That said, there is plenty in this film for kids about courage and strength and determination, about loyalty and integrity. And of course, it’s very entertaining and makes for a great afternoon of movie watching.
(Note: this is available as an Instant View on Netflix until February 28!)