Usually cited as Ford's personal favourite among his own films, this picks up the story of Judge Priest, his 1934 Will Rogers vehicle, and follows the picaresque experiences of the old judge of Fairfield, Kentucky, some 15 years on, as the twentieth century exerts a pull forward equal to the retrograde magnetism of the Civil War. Winninger's judge casts benevolent paternalism over an American community idealised almost to the extent of the Irish village in The Quiet Man, but still riven with vestiges of racism, religious prudery, and the scars of the North/South divide, and now facing an electoral tussle between the Old and the New. A mosaic of Americana both sentimental and self-consciously critical, with the emphatic past tense its safety valve.
The Sun Shines Bright
Cast and crew