The Rogers films are not mugging “actors classics” as Sarris defined the term: they are pure Ford and construct teetering-on-the-edge communities that is as good as anything in his more famous works. He sets a stormy tone beneath the surface. The twisted Americana in the steamboat show rivals anything Lynch has come up with.
The way Ford juggles pathos, satire and slapstick within single shots is extraordinary. And his “floating museum,” whereby mannequins of Yankee, European, and Biblical figures are redecorated into Southern heroes, and then cast in the hellfire of the steamboat furnace for love is one of the most brilliantly political things I’ve seen in cinema.