Journey to Shiloh (1968)

Ford might score a few more lines of dialogue in “Journey to Shiloh” than he did in “A Time for Killing,” but you could excise every single one of them without the film losing an iota of momentum. This Civil War flick begins with seven friends (led by a young James Caan, no less), traveling to Richmond, Va., to join the Confederate Army. They learn valuable life lessons along the way (example: slavery is bad), but they end up joining the fray early when they hit Tennessee and get caught up in the Battle of Shiloh. Ford plays one of the seven: Willie Bill Bearden, a fellow whose only distinguishing characteristic is the constant fondling of a knife. Unfortunately, only once in a blue moon does he actually get to wield it as a weapon, instead spending the majority of the film just looking vaguely threatening. Still, as a member of the main cast, he does at least get his own verse in the theme song, sung by Bread’s David Gates: “Willie Bill was born in Pecos, 18 summers he’s seen, he’s old enough to soldier, will he see 19?” Of course he won’t. This was back in the days when Ford’s roles weren’t guaranteed to make it all the way through to the closing credits. The worst of it, though, is that Ford toughs it out for more than an hour of the film’s 1:41 run time, and doesn’t even get the dignity of a classy death scene. Instead, word of his off-screen passing is relegated to a throwaway line about having taken a minie ball right between the eyes, with a line in the closing song (“Willie fell running, a bullet in his head”) serving as mild consolation at best. Given the star power of Ford and Caan, it’s strange that “Journey to Shiloh” has yet to make it onto DVD, but, indeed, it still remains MIA.

A Time for Killing