7 Women (1966, John Ford)
Set in 1935 on Chinese-Mongol border, is this a western? Well it certainly has some typical western (and John Ford) themes: frontier civilization vs wilderness, small community under siege, higher authority vs individual feelings and desires, etc.
On the surface, Ford was getting increasingly liberal in the twilight of his career. After offering his apologies to Native Americans in Cheyenne Autumn, in his last movie he puts down religiousness, conservative morals and men (mostly men on horses for that matter).
But there was one theme that was the most intriguing to me. Scene in which Ms. Andrews (Margaret Leighton) gets completely weak in the knees while watching young Emma (Sue Lyon, best known as Lolita) dressing up is, apart from Montgomery Clift and John Ireland comparing pistols in Red River, the most explicit homosexual moment in the classic western that I have seen. In case anybody was left with any doubt, later on we have an exchange between Dr. Cartwright (Anne Bancroft) and Ms. Andrews in which Doc suggests to later that she should have settled down with some man, to which Andrews replies that she has devoted her life to her work (and God). But she confesses with a distant look: “Yes, something was missing, God was not enough”. So, repressed sexuality hidden behind religion, well known story, and at this point we are still not sure were Ford is heading with this and with character of Ms. Andrews. But later on, when gang of savage men imprison these women, we get sudden shift in tone in Ms. Andrews’s character. She gets completely irrational and hysterical because of the woman giving birth in that room. She can’t stand her and her child, as well as Dr. Cartwright’s open sexuality. This shift in tone felt awkward to me, and by the end of the movie Andrews is essentially turned into villain.
Dr. Cartwright wears trousers and short hair, rides a horse, smokes and does a man’s job better than any man, but she is still the “real” woman. Her heterosexuality is explicitly established in the very first scene she arrives (“But, she’s a woman!” they yell, to which she replies “Unless a lot of man have been kidding me!”) and later she conquers men with her strongest, biblical weapon, her sex of course.