A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply center. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the ... See full summary »
After Custer and the 7th Cavalry are wiped out by Indians, everyone expects the worst. Capt. Nathan Brittles is ordered out on patrol but he's also required to take along Abby Allshard, wife of the Fort's commanding officer, and her niece, the pretty Olivia Dandridge, who are being evacuated for their own safety. Brittles is only a few days away from retirement and Olivia has caught the eye of two of the young officers in the Company, Lt. Flint Cohill and 2nd Lt. Ross Pennell. She's taken to wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair, a sign that she has a beau in the Cavalry, but refuses to say for whom she is wearing it. Written by
Prior to leaving Fort Stock on his last patrol, Captain Brittles writes an objection to having to take a wagon on the mission. He hands the written complaint to Major Allshard, who in turn hands it to Sgt. Hochbauer, who then reads the report up side down. See more »
It seems trite to say they don't make them like this anymore. But it's a fact. They don't make them like this anymore. And it seems likely we won't be seeing them making them like this ever again. This is John Ford at the height of his career, at his best, doing what he did best. On location in the Monument Valley, it is more than fair to say the scenery, the colors, even the weather, along with Ford's cinematography, particularly the patient framing of his shots and making full use of the setting and environment in which he filmed, are every bit as much stars of this film as are the featured human stars.
None of which is to say the human stars weren't good. John Wayne in the lead turned in a remarkable performance. Wayne was 42-years old when he made this, but he was playing a character much older than that, perhaps as much as 20 years older, and Wayne pulls it off. He looks and seems like a 60-year old man. He showed his acting chops here.
Ben Johnson had been around awhile at this point, mainly as a stuntman, but here he makes one of his first forays into real acting, and he does well, which no doubt boosted his career.
Perennial John Wayne sidekick Harry Carey, Jr. is here too, at the ripe young age of 28. It occurs to me as I write this in November 2008 that he seems to be the last surviving cast member of this movie.
Joanne Dru. What can be said? While this movie was made before I was born, Joanne Dru plays the fetching young woman wearing the yellow ribbon and stirring the male ashes deep inside as well as anybody ever could, and she was quite fetching indeed. Her performance still striking that chord precisely that way almost 60 years later.
Ostensibly this is a western, but this movie is actually much more a military movie than just a western. John Ford was a military man himself, who ultimately retired as a Navy Reserve Rear Admiral. He knew what the military was all about, he understood and enjoyed military life, military ways, military customs, and military culture, and he clearly relished making military depictions. So that's what we see here. All that military stuff. Oddly, though, it all seems out of time in a way. This movie was made in 1949, just a few years after WWII. While making a movie about the cavalry fighting the Indian wars in 1876, the military culture Ford depicted seems more apropos of the 1940s than of the 1870s. For instance, I'm just not sold on this version of history where US cavalry men were burdened with and hauled around family members in the wild wild west. Maybe they did, but I'm not so sure. It seems much more likely this was a device added to appeal to 1949 audiences. There are other examples of this. This is the only flaw in an otherwise very good movie. And who knows, maybe it isn't a flaw at all, true or not. It's a good movie. Ford made a movie in which he talked to all those recently mustered out veterans he knew were out there populating his audiences. On that level he succeeds.
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