Pilgrimage. 1933. USA. Directed by John Ford. With Henrietta Crosman, Heather Angel. 96 min.
During his time at Fox, F. W. Murnau had a profound influence on John Ford, whose work from 1928 on incorporates Murnau’s chiaroscuro lighting schemes and expressively distorted spaces. That influence is particularly apparent in the opening scenes of Pilgrimage, set in a small town in Arkansas but shot entirely on a Fox soundstage in a manner that strongly suggests Sunrise. The turn-of-the-century New York stage star Henrietta Crosman—once famous for playing swashbuckling female adventurers—offers a devastating performance as a hardened farm woman who prevents the marriage of her son (future Welles collaborator Norman Foster) to a neighbor girl (Marian Nixon), only to have him enlist in the army and become a casualty of the Great War. Ten years later, she travels to France with a group of Gold Star mothers to see her son’s grave, which occasions a rush of regret and repentance, as well as some rich Fordian comedy with Lucille La Verne as a fellow traveler. New 4K restoration from nitrate elements held by MoMA, funded by Twentieth Century Fox