The Henry Fonda Film Collection [2 Discs] [DVD]

This collection of ten films starring the screen legend Henry Fonda includes such classics as My Darling Clementine, The Longest Day, Jesse James, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Return of Frank James, Immortal Sergeant, Daisy Kenton, The Boston Strangler, The Ox-Bow Incident, and The Grapes of Wrath.
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Special Features

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Synopsis

The Boston Strangler
The Boston Strangler adopts the split-screen technique then in vogue (see also The Thomas Crown Affair) to relate the true story of self-confessed mass murderer Albert DeSalvo. Adapted by Edward Anhalt from the book by Gerold Frank, the film covers the years 1962 to 1964, during which time a dozen women were raped and murdered in the Boston area. State-appointed officer John Bottomly (Henry Fonda) arrests as many known sex offenders as he can get his hands on in hopes of finding a clue as to the Boston Strangler's identity. As these things often happen, the police come across the necessary evidence through pure luck. Well-played by Tony Curtis (whose makeup is startling), DeSalvo himself does not appear until an hour into the film. When caught, the schizophrenic DeSalvo insists that he knows nothing of the murders. Under interrogation and hypnosis, his homicidal impulses are exposed. Meticulously cast, The Boston Strangler offers excellent vignettes by Sally Kellerman as the Strangler's only surviving victim and by Hurd Hatfield as an erudite sex pervert. When Boston Strangler was first shown on TV in 1974, a voice-over coda was added, noting that Albert DeSalvo was stabbed to death in prison on November 26, 1973, and that many experts were convinced that he was not the killer but that his confessions were the product of a delusional mind. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Jesse James
The real Frank and Jesse James were murderous thugs, light years away from the Robin Hood image imposed on them by revisionist dime novelists. But in 1939, 20th Century-Fox wasn't about to build an expensive Technicolor feature around the exploits of a couple of low-lives, thus Jesse James upholds the mythos, offering us the standard whitewashed version of the James boys. According to Nunally Johnson's irresistibly entertaining screenplay, Jesse (Tyrone Power) and Frank (Henry Fonda) become train and bank robbers to avenge the death of their mother (Jane Darwell), killed at the behest of greedy railroad interests. Once he feels his work is done, Jesse settles down to a life of marital domesticity--only to be shot in the back by cowardly Bob Ford (John Carradine). Frank James is left alive at film's end, paving the way for the 1941 sequel The Return of Frank James. Director Henry King stages the action sequences in glorious outsized fashion, notably the famous bank-robbery scene in which Jesse rides his horse through a plate glass window. The scenes involving both James brothers are stolen hands-down by Henry Fonda, not so much because he was a better actor than Tyrone Power but because his character had all the best lines. Jesse James was filmed largely on location in Missouri, resulting in crowd-control nightmares for the picture's beleaguered assistant directors. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Return of Frank James
This Technicolor sequel to 1939's Jesse James does without the services of the earlier film's star Tyrone Power, who after all was shot dead by that "dirty little coward" Bob Ford (John Carradine). Repeating his portrayal of western outlaw Frank James, Henry Fonda is promoted to top billing here. As depicted by scenarist Sam Hellman, Frank has retired from his life of crime to become a peaceful farmer, though he has never given up his search for the treacherous Ford. The killer and his cohorts are eventually rounded up, but are pardoned due to political intervention. That's when Frank slaps on six-guns once more to seek his own form of justice. Featured in the cast is Henry Hull as a top-of-his-lungs crusading newspaperman and Jackie Cooper as a headstrong young sprout who pays the ultimate price for his bullheadedness. Making her screen debut is Gene Tierney, in the role of an Eastern reporter who wants to tell Frank's true story to the world. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Grapes of Wrath
The adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of dirt-poor Dust Bowl migrants by 4-time Oscar-winning director John Ford starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, who opens the movie returning to his Oklahoma home after serving jail time for manslaughter. En route, Tom meets family friend Casey (John Carradine), a former preacher who warns Tom that dust storms, crop failures, and new agricultural methods have financially decimated the once prosperous Oklahoma farmland. Upon returning to his family farm, Tom is greeted by his mother (Oscar-winner Jane Darwell), who tells him that the family is packing up for the "promised land" of California. Warned that they shouldn't expect a warm welcome in California--they've already seen the caravan of dispirited farmers, heading back home after striking out at finding work--the Joads push on all the same. Their first stop is a wretched migrant camp, full of starving children and surrounded by armed guards. Further down the road, the Joads drive into an idyllic government camp, with clean lodging, indoor plumbing, and a self-governing clientele. When Tom ultimately bids goodbye to his mother, who asks him where he'll go, he delivers the film's most famous speech: "I'll be all around...Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat...Whenever there's a cop beating a guy, I'll be there...And when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build. I'll be there too." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Immortal Sergeant
Though Henry Fonda is top-billed in The Immortal Sergeant, the title character is played by Thomas Mitchell. Set in the Libyan Desert during WW2, the story finds tough but compassionate British Eighth Army sergeant Kelly (Thomas Mitchell) in charge of a 14-man patrol. Kelly's corporal is Colin Spence (Henry Fonda), a shy and retiring Canadian. When the squad becomes lost in the desert, it is the guidance and example of Kelly that brings the timid Spence out of his shell. Kelly ultimately dies, leaving Spence in charge of the surviving soldiers. Applying the lessons learned from the Immortal Sergeant, Spence is able to lead his comrades back to allied lines, becoming a hero in the process. Second-billed Maureen O'Hara plays Spence's sweetheart in a series of gratuitous but effective flashbacks. Immortal Sergeant was based on the novel by John Brophy. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

My Darling Clementine
One of the greatest movie Westerns, John Ford's My Darling Clementine is hardly the most accurate film version of the Wyatt Earp legend, but it is still one of the most entertaining. Henry Fonda stars as former lawman Wyatt Earp, who, after cleaning up Dodge City, arrives in the outskirts of Tombstone with his brothers Morgan (Ward Bond), Virgil (Tim Holt), and James (Don Garner), planning to sell their cattle and settle down as gentlemen farmers. Yet Wyatt, disgusted by crime and cattle rustling, eventually agrees to take the marshalling job until he can gather enough evidence to bring to justice the scurrilous Clanton clan, headed by smooth-talking but shifty-eyed Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan). Almost immediately, Wyatt runs afoul of consumptive, self-hating gambling boss Doc Holliday (Victor Mature, in perhaps his best performance). When Doc's erstwhile sweetheart, Clementine (Cathy Downs) comes to town, Earp is immediately smitten. However, Doc himself is now involved with saloon gal Chihauhua (Linda Darnell). The tensions among Wyatt, Doc, Clementine, and Chihauhua wax and wane throughout most of the film, leading to the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral, with Wyatt and Doc fighting side-by-side against the despicable Clantons. Its powerful storyline and full-blooded characterizations aside, My Darling Clementine is most entertaining during those little "humanizing" moments common to Ford's films, notably Wyatt's impromptu "balancing act" while seated on the porch of the Tombstone hotel, and Wyatt's and Clementine's dance on the occasion of the town's church-raising. Based on Stuart N. Lake's novel Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall (previously filmed twice by Fox), the screenplay is full of wonderful dialogue, the best of which is the brief, philosophical exchange about women between Earp and Mac the bartender (J. Farrell MacDonald). The movie also features crisp, evocative black-and-white photography by Joseph MacDonald. Producer (Daryl F. Zanuck) was displeased with Ford's original cut and the film went through several re-shoots and re-edits before its general release in November of 1946. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Ox-Bow Incident
This now-classic indictment of mob rule was a pet project of both star Henry Fonda and director William Wellman, both of whom agreed to work on lesser 20th Century-Fox projects in exchange for this film. After a hard winter on the range, cowboys Gil Carter (Fonda) and Art Croft (Harry Morgan) ride into a fleabitten small town for a drink. Within minutes, they get mixed up in a barroom brawl, which earns them the animosity of the locals. By and by, word reaches town that a local rancher has been killed by rustlers. With the sheriff out of town, a lynch mob is formed under the leadership of Major Tetley (Frank Conroy), a former Confederate officer who hopes to recapture past glories. Worried that they'll be strung up, Carter and Croft reluctantly join the mob and head out of town. In the dark of night, the group comes across three sleeping transients: a farmer named Martin (Dana Andrews), a Mexican (Anthony Quinn), and a senile old man (Francis Ford). The fact that Martin carries no bill of sale written by the so-called murder victim is evidence enough for Tetley to demand that the three men be hanged on the spot. Carter knows that this is a gross miscarriage of justice, but he's helpless to intervene. Resolving himself to his fate, Martin gives Carter a letter to deliver to his wife. The three unfortunates die at the end of the rope, and the mob rides off, only to discover that there never was a murder of any kind. Based on a novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident is not so much a western as a gothic melodrama, with deep, looming shadows and atmospheric underlighting worthy of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Though the film lost a fortune at the box office (a fact that Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck never tired of pointing out to Fonda and Wellman), it gains in stature with each passing year. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Daisy Kenyon
Daisy Kenyon stars Joan Crawford as the eponymous heroine, a Manhattan commercial artist. Daisy is torn between two men: a handsome, married attorney (Dana Andrews) and an unmarried Henry Fonda. Deciding to do the "right thing", Daisy marries Fonda, but carries a torch for the dashing Andrews. When the lawyer divorces his wife, he calls upon Daisy and tries to win her back. She is very nearly won over, but her husband isn't about to give up so easily. Both men argue over Daisy, who is so distraught by the experience that she nearly has a fatal automobile accident. In the end, Daisy realizes that she truly loves Fonda, and gives Andrews his walking papers. Daisy Kenyon is given a contemporary slant with a subplot about child abuse (in a Joan Crawford film!); and, in one scene set at New York's Stork Club, several celebrities (Walter Winchell, Leonard Lyons, John Garfield) make unbilled cameo appearances. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Longest Day
The Longest Day is a mammoth, all-star re-creation of the D-Day invasion, personally orchestrated by Darryl F. Zanuck. Whenever possible, the original locations were utilized, and an all-star international cast impersonates the people involved, from high-ranking officials to ordinary GIs. Each actor speaks in his or her native language with subtitles translating for the benefit of the audience (alternate "takes" were made of each scene with the foreign actors speaking English, but these were seen only during the first network telecast of the film in 1972). The stars are listed alphabetically, with the exception of John Wayne, who as Lt. Colonel Vandervoort gets separate billing. Others in the huge cast include Eddie Albert, Jean-Louis Barrault, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Gert Frobe, Curt Jurgens, Peter Lawford, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth More, Edmond O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Jean Servais, Rod Steiger and Robert Wagner. Paul Anka, who wrote the film's title song, shows up as an Army private. Scenes include the Allies parachuting into Ste. Mere Englise, where the paratroopers were mowed down by German bullets; a real-life sequence wherein the German and Allied troops unwittingly march side by side in the dark of night; and a spectacular three-minute overhead shot of the troops fighting and dying in the streets of Quistreham. The last major black-and-white road-show attraction, The Longest Day made millions, enough to recoup some of the cost of 20th Century Fox's concurrently produced Cleopatra. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Drums Along the Mohawk
John Ford directed this outdoor adventure set in the American Colonial period. Gilbert and Lana Martin (Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert) are a young couple trying to make a home in New York State's Mohawk Valley, but repeated attacks by Indians drive them, along with other settlers in the valley, into a nearby fort, where they watch helplessly as the natives lay waste to their farms and cabins. A spinster with a large farm, Sarah McKlennar (Edna May Oliver), comes to their rescue when she hires Gilbert to work as a field hand and gives the Martins a place to stay. The rugged life of the farm and frontier doesn't always sit well with Lana, who was raised in wealthy and comfortable circumstances; in time she develops a thicker skin and learns to love their new life in the Mohawk Valley, especially after giving birth to their first son. Gilbert joins the militia, who must do battle both with the local Indian tribes and the British soldiers who are provoking them to battle. Gilbert returns wounded, and as he recuperates, a healthy crop rises in the fields, but their satisfaction is short lived when the Indians once again hit the warpath. 1939 was a stellar year for John Ford; along with this highly successful adventure tale, which was nominated for three Academy Awards, Ford also released the ground-breaking western Stagecoach. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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