Ox - Bow Incident

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movieman1957
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by movieman1957 »

A grand essay Miss M. You make many fine points.

I too love Davenport here (and anywhere else too.) The thing I like is that he is so reasoned and passionate without being overblown. It is if his calmness and sincerity will win everyone over. It should but doesn't.

I don't think Fonda and Morgan would have stood a chance. They were new, unknown in town so they were consequently not heard to any extent.

Don't you love it when the "savage" shows up the regular folk. Ten languages and he speaks better English than the one calling him out about it. She looks all the more foolish.

Can a town survive this kind of thing? It might but it is a long hard road,
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by mrsl »

Hey movieman:

In response to your question about whether a town can live with such a thing, -- think about No Name on the Bullet. I think that movie would give you your answer. I'm assuming you've seen it, if not, it's a good one to rent.

.
Anne


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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by JackFavell »

First of all,

movieman -

I am so enjoying your insights into this film! I had missed your other post describing the types of mobs and the way they behave until just now. It was just brilliant.

And you are so right, the mob should listen to the wonderful Harry Davenport. In every other movie, people give him the respect his years have earned.... but somehow here, they don't....it is awful to watch him struggle. His character makes me realize how much prejudice is actually involved in the lynching. On the surface, it is about Larry Kincaid, but under the surface are the deep down assumptions about the old, the feminine, the new-in-town, the black, the mexican, the weak. If it is even slightly different, kill it. It must be guilty. If they don't kill it, they try to rope it into conformity.
I found it very interesting that Wellman took the stereotype of the western woman and turned this one character into one of the most vengeful, vociferous haters in the bunch. Someone else has mentioned that in order for Darwell to fit in with the "boys", she must be meaner than any of them. When something earth shattering happens, people will fall back on their worst, most primeval fears.... the fear of those who are different. Is it man's nature to do so? Or is it man's better nature to fight such feelings? These men of the mob will come to realize that, Donald Martin AND Juan AND the old man are them.... They have, in effect, killed themselves.

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US

Maven,

”What right have you got to show my letter...All I asked you to do is make sure it was delivered...It’s enough to be hanged by a bunch of bullying outlaws without having your private thoughts handed around to them as a joke...I don’t care what you were doing. I didn’t write that letter to be passed around. It’s none of these murderers’ business...give me my letter!!”

You know what I was thinking...not only was he to be hanged, but he was to be humiliated by being watched. I’m telling you, there’s something voyeuristic about this lynch mob thing.


Fonda’s silent meeting with ex girlfriend played by MARY BETH HUGHES was poignant. They neither one of them could speak becuz they were being watched by the mob and her husband. Brave man, that husband of hers, as he faced the mob, pointedly Fonda. The mob (mostly men mind you) “knew” his wife very well. But he was strong and self-assured when he quietly let them know that things have changed; and there are boundaries.


WOW! This ramble was superb. Your discussion of "watching", voyeurism and humiliation really got me thinking again.. Because these men and women of the mob had nothing in their lives, they were simply waiting for something exciting to happen....as in the scene with Gil, Rose and her new husband. If it wasn't going to happen, they would engineer it to happen anyway, because they were thrilled by the feeling of power in their powerless lives. They were greedy for .... what? for an outlet for their general frustration with a hard life? I don't know. I do think if it was possible, they would have forced Martin to watch his own hanging - torturing and baiting him for the "fun" of it, because it felt good.

The individual must cry out and rail against the tide...against the wind, even if it means getting swept away. Even if it means drowning. Don and Mr. Davies have that in common. These two lone men try to stop the inevitable. Don wants to survive to go home to his family. Mr. Davies wants the Law to survive.


This writing is just magnificent. Comparing the mob to the tide.... to nature itself, wow. DO we go with the tide when it is wrong? How do we struggle against it? All very interesting and hard questions. I don't think there is an answer.....
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by Mr. Arkadin »

[quote="JackFavell
The individual must cry out and rail against the tide...against the wind, even if it means getting swept away. Even if it means drowning. Don and Mr. Davies have that in common. These two lone men try to stop the inevitable. Don wants to survive to go home to his family. Mr. Davies wants the Law to survive.


This writing is just magnificent. Comparing the mob to the tide.... to nature itself, wow. DO we go with the tide when it is wrong? How do we struggle against it? All very interesting and hard questions. I don't think there is an answer.....


It's similar to what we began exploring in the Film Noir thread at TCM, but actually defines the situation in more distinct terms.

What these men did as a mob actually happened quite a bit in the west without incident or reproach. The only reason this mob was in violation of the law was because the original owner of the cattle was found alive and could tell what actually happened. As the same Henry Fonda would say in Firecreek (1968) after a lynching, "Where there is no law, you make your own."

Thus we must ask the question, Is morality relative to culture (If so, it would seem that those who fight for reform are immoral.)? Or do we have some Universal standards and belief about the dignity of mankind?

As for the tide, it may sweep over many things and carry them out to sea, but objects of permanence will always remain.

Great thought provoking writing CM. I enjoyed reading your post.
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by CineMaven »

Movieman, Jackaaaay, Mr. A., thanxxx so much for the compliment. I wanted to give it my best effort. The film deserves it.

It's not dated at all.
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by MissGoddess »

Great, just great Maven. You really swept me up in the tide of your wonderful words!

i beg to add such atrocities still occur very much so in the world, in overt but even more so
in covert ways. I equate much of the craze for "reality" and trash-talk shows in their more extreme
versions, to the mentality of "mobs". They'll watch an execution today with little problem. I feel
the same fear and nausea when I happen to see people viewing those programs....these are people
who could one day be some poor schnook's jury???
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by CineMaven »

Thank you Ms. G.

When I see the Jerry Springer-type shows aired...(NO! I DIDN'T WATCH!!) I used to think of those audience members as being in the Colosseum when the lions were let loose on the Christians. Shameful!!! :(
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by MissGoddess »

CineMaven wrote:Thank you Ms. G.

When I see the Jerry Springer-type shows aired...(NO! I DIDN'T WATCH!!) I used to think of those audience members as being in the Colosseum when the lions were let loose on the Christians. Shameful!!! :(


Yes! It's the same principal. "Ooooh...WE didn't tie the noose around his neck."
That's probalby what all those bystanders would have gotten themselves off the hook with
in Ox-Bow and pretty soon they'd have shifted the blame onto the ones that actually handled
the rope...IF it weren't for the reading of that letter. After that, there was no denying
their individual guilt in the whole disaster.

Tell me you guys, do any of you feel Fonda and Morgan are guilty, too? Do you think
they are less guilty than the others?
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by CineMaven »

"Tell me you guys, do any of you feel Fonda and Morgan are guilty, too? Do you think they are less guilty than the others?"

Hmmm...the only reason I would say they are less guilty than the others...is b'cuz of them fighting with the Mob near the end of the film. And they stood on the side with Sharpes.
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by mrsl »

To an extent I do feel they are also guilty. There were others in the crowd that didn't like the idea of lynching, and although Fonda was threatened when he started to argue, perhaps if he had taken the lead, others would have followed. They were all weak men, obviously, but if one person had stood firm, perhaps the others would have rallied with him. Only the General and the woman were totally 100% gung ho, about 5 were with them 100%, but the rest were not thrilled with what was happening, and those 4 or 5 sided with Frank and Morgan would have made up a majority, and they might have gotten a halt and back to town for a trial.
.
Anne


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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by JackFavell »

I feel that the only one fully absolved from blame is Harry Davenport. However, Fonda and Morgan, and the others really couldn't have known what was going to happen, how things were going to turn. They were human, and not speaking up strongly earlier is a kind of a hindsight is 20/20 situation. I can't really fault them for thinking about their decision carefully as events unfolded. Perhaps if those seven men had actually spoken strongly right off the bat, or if one had challenged Tetley directly in a manner that called his power into question (like in The Tin Star), things might have turned out differently. Or they might not have. But life is like that.... could have, would have, should have......These men will have to live with those justifications for their actions. I couldn't help but feel guilty in some way - "If only I'd......"
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by rohanaka »

JackFavell wrote:Your post made me wonder what happened to the town after this? I picture it drying up, and becoming a ghost town, as the men slowly left. Another set of lives affected by that fateful event.


Hi Jackie... thanks for the feedback on my post.. and you are right... I am sure this whole "incident" took its toll on the entire town as time went by. I imagine NOTHING was the same for these folks (at least in their hearts and minds) as the end result of their actions began to sink in. But I guess it all depends on how in tune they were with their consciences... because as we saw... MOST of them did not seem to display much of a conscience for what they were doing (at least not WHILE they were doing it.) As much as I LIKE to believe that we all have some sort of universal sense of right and wrong that can help censor us BEFORE we act... the truth really seems to be that there are a LOT of people out there in the world who have gotten far too good at simply ignoring that conscience both before AND after they act... to the point where they even try to JUSTIFY their wrong behavior and make it seem right.

But can you just imagine going through all that... totally convinced you were right.. only to find out how WRONG you really were? I bet some of those folks were absolutely BESIDE themselves, if only on the inside where nobody else could see. And I bet many of them still looked for ways to justify themselves to quiet that awful voice of guilt that lay within their heart. And I'd like to imagine too, that in the quiet of the night... when these people are alone in their thoughts, that the memory of those three men swinging in the breeze will haunt them and rob them of any sense of peace they may try to find.

Now I don't say that so much because I want them to PAY for what they did, (though I certainly think they are GUILTY of murder and SHOULD pay) but more because I want to HOPE that we all possess a real sense of right and wrong no matter how well hidden beneath our various layers of "situational ethics" and "half truth". What I am trying (albeit poorly) to say is that IF they COULD feel sorry for what they did, then perhaps there is still hope for them as human beings. I mean... imagine how black the heart would have to be for a person to lay their head on their pillow and sleep like a baby after all that.

I once heard a saying, and I don't recall who said it.. but the jist of it was that when we do wrong we should be glad when our conscience bothers us, and be very worried when it doesn't. And I don't say that to sound "preachy". I just mean that if there ARE some sort of universal laws for right and wrong in the world... then there is also some sort of universal accountability for us to obey those laws. A soul that truly has lost all sense of right and wrong (and accountability for wrong) is a miserable soul indeed.

movieman1957 wrote:In many westerns a mob takes on a personality of its own. It becomes bigger than the people in it. There are different kinds though. There is the righteous mob where they are convinced, as here, that they are right and there is nothing that will change their mind. To disagree with the mob is to be thought weak. Then there is a more frenzied mob. This is one that usually gets stirred up by one or two people. Others get caught up in it and they almost go without thinking.


Hiya Mr. Movieman. (and PS thanks for your "ramble encouragement") I think you are right in your assessment of "mob" mentality and how it varies depending on the reason for the mob and who is "steering" it. And as a sidenote.. I will also add that there is a fine line sometimes between a "crowd" of people and a "mob" of people but very often they are categorized the same. Yet not all "crowds TURN into mobs... and not all crowds are led by a "mob mentality", because in my mind.. a "mob" is a "crowd" that has gotten out of hand. I guess what I am saying for the purpose of this discussion... is if that group of folks had STOPPED themselves before they got so worked up.. and just stood around a made their complaints to one another about how they need better help from law enforcement... and maybe even made a choice to seek a solution to wait for the sheriff and ask him to form a posse to round up the rustlers, etc ( a solution that did not involve lynching anyone) they'd have just been a "crowd" of angry citizens in the street. But instead they took it to the next level... icy cold rope and all.... and that is what made them a mob

And again I have to ask myself WHY?? Why did they do one thing and not the other?? WHY did they cross that line? And again I think it is because people often don't want to hear any other "truth" than the one they have already chosen to believe. (that whole "issues vs facts" thing) I think a lot of times when "mobs" happen it is because too many people are happily led by someone just telling them what they want to hear and they don't want to be bothered with the details. They just get a grasp of the momentary event and let themselves "run" with it. And there is no time for reason or thoughts of consequence. It really says a lot about how much like "sheep" or "cattle" people can be (just following the herd). I guess a "mob" would be a "herd mentality on "stampede" mode.

CineMaven wrote:”The Ox-Bow Incident” is one of the most stunning and devastating indictments against taking the law into one’s own hands
[/quote]

NICELY said, Miss Maven, dear. And as always a VERY sound assessment of the story and the characters. I always get a powerful heap of insight into a story when you ramble, little lady. May I just say "Wow!"

I am really glad I was able to pick this film up from the library the other day, and I hope to watch it again in before the week is out. I am really looking forward to giving it even and closer review this time as now will be watching with all these additional thoughts from you folks to add to my "musings". Thanks for the insight, everybody.

PS. MissG... Reality TV has to be one of the most UNREAL forms of "entertainment" on the planet... OH, don't get me STARTED!! :roll:

And RE: were Fonda and Morgan guilty.... hmm.... I think they FEEL guilty... and perhaps they do have SOME level of guilt other than just a "feeling" too, but I need to go over the whole thing once more to refresh my memory. Let me watch again to get my facts straight and maybe I can answer better after that..
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

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There were two points where the crowd went wrong.... and one of them, I might have actually done myself. The first was when they decided to go after the rustlers themselves, to form a "posse" of their own. I might too have felt that the criminals were just going to get away. This part I can understand.

But then, later, they had to make a decision not to wait for the law, not to take the men they found back into town for a fair trial. To string them up. This was the big mistake. Now some will say that was the intent all along... I say that might be true, but only for some. It's bad enough to make one mistake.... but to purposely make two? That's harder to justify. And that is why it is all the more awful. They did it twice. That's why the justifications won't fly.

I think these people didn't want to make any decision -- they just wanted to follow the strong opinion, because it felt good to do so. Not thinking, going with the flow is EASY. "It's not my responsibility - he TOLD me to....." "I was just following orders". Thinking, trying to discern right from wrong is hard. Standing up to a power is even harder. Maybe I like Henry Fonda a little better because he WAS scared.... but stood up anyway. If he came in like John Wayne, it wouldn't be a story about hard decisions. It wouldn't be a story about US and what we would do. A lone man standing up against a mob with a shaky voice.... that is a powerful example for us.
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by CineMaven »

I have a feeling 'THE OX-BOW INCIDENT" is just as much how destructive the mob mentality can be...as it is when one does NOT take a stand against the Mob. :cry:
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Re: Ox - Bow Incident

Post by CineMaven »

”And I'd like to imagine too, that in the quiet of the night... when these people are alone in their thoughts, that the memory of those three men swinging in the breeze will haunt them and rob them of any sense of peace they may try to find.” - Rohanaka.

Ro-Ro...I’ll bet anything that Jane Darwell’s character remains unchanged.

”Maybe I like Henry Fonda a little better because he WAS scared.... but stood up anyway. If he came in like John Wayne, it wouldn't be a story about hard decisions. It wouldn't be a story about US and what we would do. A lone man standing up against a mob with a shaky voice.... that is a powerful example for us.” - JackFavell.

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in ”ALIEN" comes to mind. (Huh? I shall briefly explain). At the very very end of the movie, when Sigourney is in her skivvies and ready to go to sleep, she discovers the Alien hiding amongst the space hardware. She is scared to death. She gets into a space suit...(breathing heavily)...straps herself into a chair...(breathing heavily)...opens up a space door (breathing heavily)...and as the Alien is awakened and comes towards her, she blasts it out of the rocket ship.

Why am I bringing up sy-fy Weaver in a Westerns thread? B’cuz I always admired the producers showing Ripley in fear, but fighting through her fear and dispatching the monster. She wasn’t Mrs. Peel and Fonda wasn't 'The Duke.'
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