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Ambush was the second western Robert Taylor made in his career. The first was Billy the Kid eight years earlier. At the time a critic said that Robert Taylor looked like a kid in his new cowboy suit as Billy. Truth be told that was in Taylor's heartthrob days and he did look somewhat callow in the part.
No one would ever say that about Ambush. When we first meet Taylor he's with sidekick scout John McIntire with several days growth, dirty and unkempt, and on the dodge from Apaches. Of course he and McIntire escape and return to the fort they're assigned to and find a new spit and polish second in command in John Hodiak.
Even after a shave and a bath Taylor looks gritty and tough and starts to get interested in Arlene Dahl who is the daughter of a general and who's getting the army to go after her sister who's been captured by the same band of Apaches that Taylor just escaped from. Even though he knows it will cost lives Taylor scouts for the mission. He also wants to tweak Hodiak a bit who also is interested in Dahl.
There's another romantic triangle going at the post. Young lieutenant Don Taylor is interested in Jean Hagen the post laundress who's married to a wife beating enlisted man, Bruce Cowling.
This was the last film of director Sam Wood who possibly because of his right wing political views is not as well remembered today as a lot of his contemporaries. He received three nominations for Best Director for Kitty Foyle, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and King's Row. He did such other classics as Pride of the Yankees, A Day At the Races, A Night at the Opera and Our Town. That's a pretty good resume.
This maybe a cavalry picture, but it's not like one that John Ford would have directed. It's got some lean and mean characters and I don't mean just the standard villains. Ford would never have had anything as frank as out and out adultery in one of his films.
Ambush is a great western for fans of the genre and others. And after this no one was going to give Robert Taylor a review like the one he got for Billy the Kid.
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