Ox-Bow Incident [1943]

The Ox-Bow Incident is one of the essential Westerns, directed by William Wellman. A study of the effects--and aftereffects--of mob violence, this film (based on a true story) begins with the murder of a popular rancher. Angry townspeople form a posse, find suspects, and, without waiting for a trial, summarily hang them in an expression of biblically tinged frontier justice. But the one cowboy who tried to turn the mob aside ultimately proves that they executed innocent men. Made in 1943, the film features stunning black-and-white cinematography and a solid dramatic sense about what a deadly combination ignorance and self-righteousness can be. Fonda made this film between The Grapes of Wrath and My Darling Clementine, at a point when he was at the peak of his powers as a young actor. --Marshall Fine

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