THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943)

   Henry Fonda, Henry Morgan, Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn, William A. Wellman (director)
   This noirWesternis based on the novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. Critics who usually dismiss all Westerns as unworthy often grant that if a Western could be regarded as great literature, Clark’s novel might qualify. The film’s trailer makes the connection to Clark’s popular novel when the film’s star, Henry Fonda, takes the novel from the shelf and claims a share of its status for his film. Today, The Ox-Bow Incidentis remembered as a film from the darkest days of World War II, a period when the United States was losing the war. It was a film that captured the mood of America perfectly and because of that was rejected soundly at the box office. America needed hope at that moment, not despair. Critics have praised the film from the time of its production. If a Western movie can reach the level of significant art, this film does it.
   The story depicts the futility of trying to assert one’s sense of justice in the face of strong opposition. Apopular rancher has been reportedly murdered and his cattle rustled. A mob organizes and pursues the murderers. At the Ox-Bow the mob finds a group of men with cattle carrying the rancher’s brand, and the men do not have a bill of sale. The mob hangs them. Minutes later the mob finds that the rancher was not killed after all and that he had made a legitimate sale of his cattle to the men just hanged.
   Henry Fonda plays Gil Carter, the point-of-view character. He develops plenty of inner conflict as he realizes there is no evidence to condemn the men about to be hanged. The noir elements at times seem overwhelming: the stark realism emphasized by sharp blacks and whites and by purely interior studio settings. The film seems utterly pessimistic. Carter is better than the others in the mob only because he votes not to hang the men. But voting, as Henry David Thoreau has said, is but a feeble effort at disapproval. Ultimately, Carter does nothing to save innocent men from hanging. Dana Andrews played Donald Martin, one of the accused, in probably his best acting performance and revealed the nature of utter hopelessness. Martin obviously knows his innocence, yet he can do nothing. Desperate to muster some measure of respectability, Martin writes a letter to his wife but insists nobody read it before he dies. They read it anyway. Even that slight gesture of humanity is denied him. Powerful masculinity issues are explored as Major Tetley (Frank Conroy) desperately wants his son to renounce his eastern, feminizing education and be a man. When young Tetley (William Eyeth) refuses to assist in the actual hanging—out of cowardice, the major assumes—Tetley returns home and commits suicide. His own manhood has been repudiated. The Ox-Bow Incident was nominated for the best picture Academy Award but lost out to Casablanca.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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  • The Ox-Bow Incident — This article is about the film. For the book of the same name, see The Ox Bow Incident (novel). The Ox Bow Incident original movie poster Directed by William A. Wellman …   Wikipedia

  • The Ox-Bow Incident — L Étrange Incident L Étrange Incident Titre original The Ox Bow Incident Réalisation William Wellman Acteurs principaux Henry Fonda Dana Andrews Anthony Quinn Scénario Lamar Trotti d après Walter Van Tilburg Clark Genre Wester …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Ox-Bow Incident — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Ritt zum Ox Bow Originaltitel: The Ox Bow Incident Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 1943 Länge: 77 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Ox-Bow Incident (novel) — Infobox Book name = The Ox Bow Incident author = Walter Van Tilburg Clark image caption = First edition cover publisher = Random House pub date = 1940 The Ox Bow Incident is a 1940 western novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, in which two drifters… …   Wikipedia

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