In honor of the sudden John Ford deluge at the DVD-o-teque nearest you, I’d like to suggest that Edna May Oliver, the stoically ornery widow of Ford’s DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939), be consulted as a figure which could conceivably re-unite the red and blue states. Kindly but fiercely independent and “kooky” – Oliver could conceivably get along in anything from a Disney comedy to a bloody Civil War treatise. A true daughter of the revolution, descended from John Quincy Adams (according to our beloved Wikipedia), Oliver is lampooned in a Miles Standish-meets-Bugs Bunny cartoon I saw ad nauseum back in the TV day, but to see her in the flesh in the newly restored and released on DVD for the first time MOHAWK is to feel like a knight errant from our sickly kingdom, sent back into the past on some umbilical worm-hole pipeline to find the Holy Grail. Too strong a metaphor for the plucky stoicisms of Oliver, you say? Not a whit of it! Her character even believably bosses around the very Native Americans who are burning down her cabin in one very drunken scene.
In an age when images of images pile up like dogma-do so fast we have to keep shovels in both hands just to avoid Britney Lynn Spears, we need more than ever to go back to these lost icons, these un-tarnished original images, and see what’s to be seen. We need to be like children rummaging through the basement of Big Daddy in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF or CITIZEN KANE, looking for the one “rosebud” that hasn’t been photoshopped into complete sterility. Ladies of the jury, I propose Edna May Oliver is that very rosebud!