Based on the best-selling novel by Walter D. Edmonds, Drums Along The Mohawk was nominated in 1939 for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color. Henry Fonda stars as a farmer named Gil Martin, who brings his well-bred wife Lana (Claudette Colbert) from New York to the as-yet-unsettled Mohawk valley - only to be met with unexpected strife as the Revolutionary War goes into full swing. Also starring John Carradine and Edna May Oliver, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, this sweeping piece of cinema celebrates the strength of some of the men and women who settled the American frontier.
DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK is John Ford's first film in Technicolor (which recently perfected far richer shadings of color than had previously been possible), and the director uses it to stunning effect. The film stars Henry Fonda as Revolutionary War-era farmer Gilbert Martin, who, in 1776, has returned with his well-born wife, Lana (Claudette Colbert), to his rustic cabin in the increasingly dangerous Mohawk River valley. At first unaccustomed to the harsh physical challenges of frontier life, Lana adjusts to the work at hand and is soon able to help her husband in the fields. Shortly after they learn that the colonies are at war with the British, their farmhouse is attacked and burned to the ground by a party of Tory-led Indians. The feisty Widow McKlennar (Edna May Oliver) provides temporary shelter for the couple, but it's only a matter of time before the Indians launch a more brutal assault. Save for THE QUIET MAN, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK contains the richest passages of pastoral imagery in Ford's entire canon, the visual beauty nearly upstaging the spectacular and terrifying Indian battles. The performances, particularly Oliver (who garnered an Oscar nomination) as the vinegary widow and the superbly stoic Fonda, enable Ford to again demonstrate the heroism and limitations of rugged individualism. The scenes of an Indian prisoner spread-eagled on a wagon and Gilbert's escape are repeated almost exactly in the 1982 dystopian classic THE ROAD WARRIOR.
The simple life of two newlyweds in the Mohawk River Valley is savagely disrupted by Indian raids.