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John Ford's The Fugitive: Antifascism into Anticommunism between Mexico and the United States


June 14, 2011

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    In 1947 John Ford went to Mexico to film Dudley Nichols's adaptation of Graham Greene's anti-anticlerical novel The Labyrinthine Ways (aka The Power and the Glory).  The Fugitive  was the first postwar undertaking of the director's independent production company.  Drawn by the Mexican film industry's recent artistic and commercial development (as well as the country's peoples and scenery), Ford considered permanently locating his company Argosy Pictures south of the border.  In fact, The Fugitive  was a transnational production that combined Hollywood and Mexican talent in front and behind its cameras: the famed Mexican filmmaking team of director Emilio "El Indio" Fernández and cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, respectively coproduced and photographed Ford's film; Mexican actors Pedro Armendáriz and Dolores del Río (who had begun her movie career in Hollywood) joined Henry Fonda as the film's leads; Ford shot and processed The Fugitive at Mexico City's Estudios Churubusco, co-owned by RKO, which distributed the film internationally. The possibilities for a transnational motion-picture culture between Mexico and the United States that attracted Ford had been nurtured during World War II, when Hollywood, Washington, and Mexico City cooperated to expand Mexican moviemaking to serve the anti-Axis cause in the Americas.  The Fugitive's  international history -- on and behind, in front of and around the screen -- reveals how antifascist ideology metamorphosed into anticommunist ideology, and how the Second World War paved the way for the Cold War between Mexico and the United States.

    A writer in residence in the Library’s Frederick Lewis Allen Memorial Room, Seth Fein is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia University, where he teaches in the departments of History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies.  His book, Transnational Projections: The United States in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema will be published by Duke University Press.  He is also working on a collection of essays, The Idea of the Western Hemisphere, and producing a documentary, Our Neighborhood, from his own research about Washington's use of television to wage Cold War in Latin America during the 1960s.

     Please note that this is a lecture, into which will be integrated about 15 minutes of various film footage and still clips, not all of which will be from The Fugitive

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