Just Pals ★★★★

I'm a bit shocked at how deep the counter-cultural strain goes in John Ford, all the way back to this, one of his earliest films (and the earliest I've seen), made when he was a mere 26 years old. It's not an especially insightful critique of bourgeois and capitalist hypocrisy, but it's important to remember that Ford spent his career not propping up myths about American history and society, but by rejecting, deflating and complicating them, leaving us with a vision of our world that goes deeper than we can fathom.

Buck Jones plays a small town bum who befriends a runaway boy. Pretty much everyone else in the town they live in, excepting the comely schoolteacher and her matronly aunt, is a lying, thieving, hypocritical, stingy snob. It's the American small town as nasty, nightmare world, with only Jones's amiable, honest, laziness to counter it. First, everyone laughs at how dumb and lazy he is. Then he almost gets run out of town on a rail, literally. Finally, they very nearly lynch him. Outside of town though, he gets the Fordian hero shot: framed by the sky, backlit by the sun. He earns the pretty girl.