in about 100 words or less
US 80m, B&W
Director: John Ford; Cast: Will Rogers, Tom Brown, Anita Louise, Henry B. Walthall, David Landau, Rochelle Hudson, Hattie McDaniel, Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry
Judge Priest is a romanticized view of the Old South set circa 1890 which, from the perspective of the Confederacy, glorifies their past while casting them as accepting and genteel folk – despite their continued reliance on black servants and their mistrust of the Union. Filled with caricatures, rather than characters, Judge Priest attempts to be a good-natured comedy, and with will Rogers as lead, may have played that way to most audiences of its time. It nevertheless, remains a discomforting artifact of Hollywood. As an admirer of W.D. Griffith’s films, and having appeared as a Klansman in Birth of a Nation (1915), Ford would have certainly been aware of the power of film to recast history. As with his many portrayals of the Old West, Ford expertly applies his considerable talent to recast America’s past in a kinder gentler light (Klaus Ming March 2012).