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Fort Apache, The Bronx is a 1981 crime drama film made by Producers Circle, Time-Life Television Productions Inc., and distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. It was directed by Daniel Petrie and produced by Martin Richards, Thomas Fiorello, with David Susskind as executive producer. It stars Paul Newman, Ken Wahl, Danny Aiello, Edward Asner, Rachel Ticotin, Kathleen Beller, Pam Grier, Clifford David and Miguel Piñero.

Filmed on location in the Bronx, New York City, New York. It is widely believed that the film was based on the book Fort Apache by Tom Walker, but the studio, Time-Life Television Films (owner of the script) disputes this. The result was lengthy court litigation.


The real "Fort Apache" in the summer of 2007—1086 Simpson Street in the Bronx, formerly the New York Police Department's 41st Precinct Station.
The setting is the decayed South Bronx region of New York Citymarker, and the plot follows the day-to-day activities of NYPD Officers Murphy (Newman) and Corelli (Wahl), who work out of the 41st precinct, nicknamed "Fort Apache," so-named because to the officers who work there, it has the feeling of an army outpost in foreign territory (an allusion to Fort Apache). The precinct itself is one of the worst and most dilapidated in the department, approaching demolition and largely staffed by officers who are unwanted or have been transferred out of other precincts. Additionally, the precinct is of little use to the largely Puerto Rican community, as only 4% of the officers are Hispanic in the largest non-English speaking section of the Bronx according to retiring precinct captain Dugan. Throughout the film, Corelli and Murphy's attempts to maintain law and order by protecting and serving the community are conflicted with corrupt fellow officers, a newly appointed police captain, rioting due to police brutality, and issues related to the deaths of two rookie officers at the start of the film. In a subplot, illustrating the hopeless futility of the work done by the officers at the precinct, the killer is later found as an anonymous body, dumped in the roadside trash. With nothing to link her to the deaths of the rookie officers, the police remain ignorant of the fact that the killer of their fellow officers will never be caught.

Legal issues

  • Local community groups threated to file suit against the producers because of the way it depicted their neighborhood in the Bronx and for the depiction of ethnic minorities (Blacks and Puerto Ricans). Because of this pressure some changes were made to the script and a note was added to the title card at the beginning of the film.Film: "Fort Apache the Bronx". - Variety. - January 1, 1981. - Retrieved: 2008-06-10

  • Walker v. Time Life Films, Inc., 784 F.2d 44 (2d Cir. 1986)
:After the release of the film, an author, Tom Walker, filed a lawsuit against one of the production companies, Time-Life Television Films (legal owner of the script), claiming that the producers infringed on his book Fort Apache (New York: Crowell, 1976. ISBN 0690010478). Among other things, Walker, the plaintiff, argued that: "both the book and the film begin with the murder of a black and a white policeman with a handgun at close range; both depict cockfights, drunks, stripped cars, prostitutes and rats; both feature as central characters third- or fourth-generation Irish policemen who live in Queens and frequently drink; both show disgruntled, demoralized police officers and unsuccessful foot chases of fleeing criminals". But the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that these are stereo-typical ideas, so called "scènes à faire" (French for "scenes that must be done"), and that the United States copyright law does not protect concepts or ideas. The court ruling stated: "the book Fort Apache and the film Fort Apache: The Bronx were not substantially similar beyond [the] level of generalized or otherwise nonprotectible ideas, and thus [the] latter did not infringe copyright of [the] former".Margolick, David. - Legal Notes: "Writer Told 'Ft. Apache' isn't Just His". - New York Times. - August 25, 1985


The film was successful, grossing over $65 million worldwide at its time of release in 1981. Paul Newman was largely praised for his performance, but the movie itself received more negative reviews.
  • Richard Schickel, in TIME, called it: "more like a made-for-TV movie". He also added: "The film is not quite up to its star".; "...somewhere between Barney Miller and the works of Joseph Wambaugh".; and: "But mainly it is Newman, now 56, who gives Fort Apache its modest distinction".
  • Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, said: "...the most complete collection of cop-movie clichés since John Wayne played a Seattlemarker cop in McQ...There are too many scenes that are necessary to the plot but not to the movie, scenes where the life of the movie stops so story details can be filled in". "The movie has several story threads that lead nowhere". But, says about Newman, "He's good in his role,..." But, also calls this more of a TV show.
  • Variety labeled the film: "... a very patchy picture, strong on dialog and acting and exceedingly weak on story", and criticizes it for its lack of depth.
  • Nick Sambides, Jr. at Allmovie calls it "...flinty but otherwise forgettable character study".

See also


  1. Cultural Desk: "'Apache' Film's Debut Protested". - New York Times. - February 7, 1981
  2. Beeber, Jessie, and Maura Wogan. - "Is Scènes à Faire Really 'Necessary'?". - Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal. - Spring 2004. - Vol. 15, No. 1
  3. "Conscience in a Rough Precinct". - TIME. - February 16, 1981. - Retrieved: 2008-06-10
  4. Ebert, Roger. - "Fort Apache, The Bronx". - Chicago Sun Times. - January 1, 1981- Retrieved: 2008-06-10
  5. Sambides, Nick, Jr. - Review: Fort Apache, the Bronx". - Allmovie. - Retrieved: 2008-06-10

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