Two Flags West (1950) Poster

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Trumpet to the Morn.
Spikeopath4 September 2013
Two Flags West is directed by Robert Wise and adapted to screenplay by Casey Robinson from a story by Frank S. Nugent and Curtis Kenyon. It stars Joseph Cotten, Linda Darnell, Jeff Chandler, Cornel Wilde, Dale Robertson, Jay C. Flippen, Noah Beery Jr., Harry von Zell, Johnny Sands and Arthur Hunnicutt. Music is by Hugo Friedhofer and cinematography by Leon Shamroy.

"On December 8th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Special Proclamation, whereby Confederate Prisoners of War might gain their freedom, provided they would join the Union Army to defend the frontier West against the Indians."

A great premise drives this brooding yet action pumped Western forward, a production bolstered by crisp black and white location photography at San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, skilled direction by multi-genre director Wise and characterisations rich in thought and human interest value.

Film essentially centres around the workings of Fort Thorn, a Union Army stronghold commanded by embittered Maj. Henry Kenniston (Chandler). As he takes delivery of a unit of Confederate prisoners from Rock Island Prison Camp, themselves commanded by Col. Clay Tucker (Cotten), he struggles to contain his distaste. Something which obviously isn't helping an already pressure cooker atmosphere as groups of men divided by the on going war, are expected to stand or fall next to each other against the looming presence of chief Satank and his army of braves.

As the screenplay rolls on we learn about the main players beliefs and reasons for such, with the tragedy of the war deftly born out by the actors in their portrayals. The presence of widow Elena Kenniston (Darnell) also is cause for simmering tensions, where although an underwritten potential love triangle sometimes feels like a token offering on the edges of the frame, her character is so well drawn into the moody atmosphere, her back story packing emotional sting, that the film benefits from this case of testosterone lowering.

In amongst the Fort's uneasy alliance there are devious plans afoot on both sides of the coalition, that is to be expected, for it would be pretty standard stuff if these guys all agreed to shake hands and get on with it. But again the screenplay delivers some well thought out scenarios where agents and spies come into play, the safe transporting of civilians away from the Fort throws up some spice, as does a desperate act of violence by Major Kenniston. It all builds to a head and then Wise unleashes his skills as a overseer of action.

The crowning moment comes with the Indian attack on Fort Thorn. It's a prolonged attack filled with hundreds of extras and action aplenty. Each frame shot by Wise features flying bodies, arrows and bullets making their mark, fire raging in all parts of the ravaged Fort. Men, women and even children taking up the good fight as well, the Indian braves a fearsome and athletic foe coming in continuous waves. And this is not some Western where all the characters we have come to know are going to be singing come the end, some will die and it makes for dramatic and emotional impact.

Great cast, great direction and a great screenplay, this definitely deserves to be better known and loved by those into Westerns/Civil War movies. 8.5/10
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Better Than Average
dougdoepke3 July 2012
Civil War rivalries were popular story material for Westerns of this period. Here, the rivalry is used more effectively than usual. A contingent of Confederate pow's is sent west to help Yankees fight the Indians. Okay, but what guarantees that the Johnny Rebs won't desert to rejoin their Southern comrades. Well, nothing really, except the Southern commander Col. Tucker (Cotton) does have a sense of honor. He's going to need it since the Yankee fort commander (Chandler) is given to temper tantrums, to say the least. Throw in some angry Apaches and a lovely widow (Darnell) who'll do anything to get to California, and you've got some strong dramatic material.

It's a well-mounted movie from big budget TCF, with a great battle sequence and a surprising outcome. There's also realistic attention to battle detail inside the fort that helps lift the sequence. Then too, the wide open New Mexico locations convey the kind of scenic sense that I think Western fans so love. Meanwhile, Cotten and Wilde, a Union officer, play off one another effectively, signifying the opportunity for post-war reconciliation between North and South. It's also a fine supporting cast with a number of familiar faces, such as Hunnicutt and Beery Jr. But how did pudgy glad-hander Harry von Zell escape TV's Burns and Allen show to turn up in a Western, of all places. Nonetheless, he's shrewdly cast in what can only be called a slippery role.

Not all are aces. The complex narrative sometimes meanders, along with a few believability stretches. Nonetheless, add 'em all up and it's still a solid entry in the A-Western category.
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Troops Stretched Thin
bkoganbing27 March 2011
Two Flags West begins with Confederate colonel Joseph Cotten given an offer to have his men get paroled from prison if they'll serve in the union army out west where the troops are stretched pretty thin. Over some objections he takes the offer from Captain Cornel Wilde.

Wilde takes Cotten and his men to Fort Thorn in the Southwest which is commanded by rebel hating and Indian hating Jeff Chandler. There's a good reason why this guy is in a backwater command as you'll see as the film unfolds. In addition there's Linda Darnell, wife of Chandler's late brother who was killed in the Civil War and who all three guys have their eyes on. But Chandler scares Darnell as well he should.

It was interesting to see Chandler whose career role was Cochise playing an Indian hater. But he does successfully put over the character. His Indian hating causes a lot of tragedy before the film is over.

Two Flags West is a brooding kind of western that's not for the squeamish. It's an exceptionally violent film that I'm not sure how it got through the Code. It's one of Jeff Chandler's best early roles, too bad Universal didn't cast him in more films like Two Flags West.
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Dark, almost western-noir Civil War epic
frankfob7 January 2003
Jeff Chandler is cast against type (and does a terrific job) in this big-budget western as the commander of a cavalry fort in the West during the Civil War who hates both Indians and Southerners with equal passion. With his command stripped to the minimum due to the Union's need for troops to fight the Civil War back east, Chandler is forced to accept a unit of Confederate prisoners who have volunteered to fight Indians under Union command as an alternative to rotting in POW camps. Chandler's all-consuming hatred and racism result in his killing the son of the local Indian chief, which causes the Indians to go on a rampage against the whites in the area, culminating in a massive attack against the fort itself. This is a dark, gritty and, considering the time in which it was made, brutally graphic and violent western that explores and exposes issues--racism, sexual tension, even a hint of mental illness--seldom, if ever, touched upon by westerns up to that time. The supporting performances by Joseph Cotten, Linda Darnell and especially the great--and always underrated--Arthur Hunnicutt are top-notch, but this really belongs to Chandler, and he does a tremendous job, as good as (and in some ways better than) what is usually considered to be his finest performance, that of Indian chief Cochise in "Broken Arrow" of a few years later. Chandler was never a particularly expressive or emotional actor--when he tried to be, the results sounded more like a lecture (his speech at the end of "Pillars of the Sky" is a case in point)--but his coldness works to his advantage here, which makes his bursts of anger and hatred all the more chilling. This is an intelligent and thoughtful yet also rousing and action-filled western, hardly your run-of-the-mill cavalry-vs.-Indians tale. I don't think this would be the kind of western John Ford would have made, and it's probably the better for it. Don't miss it.
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The Blue and Gray against Indians
NewEnglandPat24 May 2003
This gritty western is a post-Civil War affair set in New Mexico where soldiers of the Blue and the Gray are obliged to let bygones be bygones and tame the wild frontier for westward expansion. The usual antagonisms are present in abundance, with Union officers reluctant to trust the Confederate troops and question their allegiance to the United States. A top cast is headed by Joseph Cotten and Jeff Chandler, who constantly spar with each other about men, munitions and how to meet the Indian threat. Linda Darnell is the lone femme in the cast and her presence sparks romantic interest and jealousy in equal measure at the army post. The Yank-Rebel forces manage to put their bickering aside to defend against an Indian attack that remains one of the best ever filmed. The black and white lensing is good and enhances director Robert Wise's fine film.
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Intelligent script and pleasing conclusions
audiemurph22 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Two Flags West" starts off feeling like it will be a rather clichéd affair: Cornel Wilde as an honor-bound good guy, the Confederate soldiers unreconstructed and unbowed, Jeff Chandler as an unmovable rebel-hater, and so on. But stick with it: "Two Flags West" develops into an unusually smart movie in which the strands of plot do not end predictably (for example, the expected flourishing of love between Linda Darnell and somebody, anybody, never occurs), and the dialogue becomes increasingly nuanced and thoughtful.

This is a movie whose intelligence does not insult your intelligence.

Joseph Cotton has always fascinated me. He is not particularly handsome, always looking older than he probably is, and his voice is strangely distinctive. But he is a wonderful actor, and his Southern Colonel is more than just obviously conflicted about whether he should stay with, or abandon, the Union army with his men: his conflict is more subtle, as he ponders where his future ultimately lies in a post-Civil War country; his very interesting dialogues about this with Linda Darnell, especially toward the end of the film, are quite pleasing to this lover of Westerns (me), who otherwise cheerfully acknowledges the clichés that often dominate this genre.

The battles with the Indians are violent and nasty: we really suffer with the lonely horse soldiers of the west who are slaughtered in the fort. And the glorious black and white photography does a great job of bringing out the loneliness and understated beauty of the plains (though filmed in New Mexico) (contrast John Ford's celebratory treatment of Monument Valley).

A great little Western with unexpected endings to the various strands of plot. It will leave you exceptionally fulfilled and pleased at the end.
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great characters make great films
drystyx13 May 2012
This is an action packed cavalry film set during the Civil War.

It begins with our protagonist, Joseph Cotton's character, a Confederate officer rotting in a Union prison with 43 of his men. They are offered a chance to fight Indians in the West, an act guaranteed not to hurt the Southern cause. When Cotton's character puts it to a vote to his men, it is deadlocked 21-21, with the tying vote a dying man who passes away before he can voice an opinion.

Cotton grabs the chance, and becomes a cavalry man, befriended by Cornel Wilde, a Union officer. Jeff Chandler plays the commander of the fort he is taken to. The star studded cast includes some great character actors, and their talents aren't wasted.

At the fort, Chandler quickly becomes the antagonist. His character resembles Henry Fonda's commander in FORT APACHE, obviously on purpose. In ways, this is almost a remake as far as characters go, but with a different story line.

A damsel in distress, the widow of Chandler's brother, killed in a battle in which Cotton took part, makes for high tension and high drama.

Later on, Chandler captures the head honcho Apache's son, and when the Apache chief demands his son's release, Chandler kills the son.

The other parts of the plot, I won't spoil. What we get are very identifiable three dimensional characters in great Western action. The fifties were the golden age for good reason. Great characters. This is a prime example. The two main antagonists both climax with acts of honor, one in supreme sacrifice, and one in relenting against a massacre for the sake of justice.

Compare these characters to the one dimensional clichés of Leone debacles, cardboard cutouts who do nothing but hate and kill, of the caricatures of "Tombstone" and other garbage, and there's no comparison. This film is so superior, it boggles the mind.

It took Hollywood four decades to realize their mistake, and now we at least see some Westerns that deal with credible characters, such as the ones you'll see Robert Duvall in. The difference is that this golden age dealt in splendor, scenery, and cinema, while the modern Western aims for total realism. While the modern Western has value, I still prefer the spectacle of cinematic glory and color to the modern dullness and dust. Both are good, but this type is more uplifting, and gives you the energy to get more done, so I give these films an edge.

Excellent acting, great scenery, directing, everything you could want, but my two chief criteria, writing and characters, are both of high quality here, too. This film is an example of "great characters make great films".
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Cavalry comes to the rescue in interesting Civil War yarn...
Neil Doyle27 August 2011
JEFF CHANDLER does a creditable job as tough Army Major Kenniston at Fort Thorn with a hatred of Confederate rebels. His sister-in-law LINDA DARNELL wants to go back to California from the New Mexico fort, but Chandler is smitten with her and tries to prevent the strong-willed lady from having her own way.

Meantime, two other men have their eyes on Linda--Confederate Col. Clay Tucker (JOSEPH COTTEN) and dashing Capt. Mark Bradford (CORNEL WILDE), both of whom fall for Major Kenniston's sister-in-law.

Seems the Yankees are willing to free Confederate prisoners if they're willing to help them fight off the Indians surrounding the fort. While this is the major plot driven device, the romantic sub-plots involving Chandler, Darnell, Wilde and Cotten get a fair share of time too.

It all comes together as an above average cavalry western under the crisp direction of Robert Wise, who makes the most of some excellent camera work in the rugged western settings. The story has some interesting components but takes time in setting up the various conflicts. Nevertheless, enough action and a little romance to satisfy most viewers of the genre.
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It is good, but it could have been great
Robert Wise, great director, made this film which sure looks like a John Ford, could have been a great film, and it would if it would depend only on Wise's direction, and on the cinematography of Leon Shamroy. But it misses out in the writing, somehow the story fails to reach the spectator like it should. It might be understandable for Confederate soldiers, realizing they might never come out alive, to change their uniforms for a common cause, the war against the Indians, specially as it might give them a chance to desert and go back home. Also to defend a fort where Major Kenniston (Jeff Chandler) provoked the attack by cruelly killing the Chief's son, they don't know about this brutal murder. But it prevents the spectator from identifying with Col. Clay Tucker (Joseph Cotten). Cotten's performance also does not help, he was a great actor, but not here. Chandler, on the contrary has a great performance. The film grabs your attention, it is good, but it could have been great.
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The Blue and The Grey join forces to fight the Indians
rogerblake-281-71881915 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In the early 1950's Hollywood made a spate of Civil War based westerns where the main plot line concerned Union and Confederate forces joining together to fend off native Films such as "Rocky Mountain" "The Last Outpost" and "Escape from Fort Bravo". Probably the best example is "Two Flags West".One wonders where they found the time to slaughter 620,000 of each other and is there any historical basis for such an occurrence? Certainly Lincoln did issue a proclamation offering pardons to any Confederate prisoners who were prepared to go west and fight the Indians.They became known as Galvanized Yankees. Here we have Colonel Clay Tucker (Joseph Cotton) excepting Captain Mark Bradford's (Cornel Wilde) offer of freedom from their prison camp if they will go and fight the Indians.The film here doesn't pull it's punches in depicting that conditions in Northern prisons were just as appalling as their Southern counterparts. When they reach Fort Thorn in New Mexico they receive a less than enthusiastic welcome.Their new commanding officer Major Henry Kenniston (Jeff Chandler) is a bitter man who hates rebels and traitors as he puts it.He also has an interest, not returned, in his dead brothers widow (Linda Darnel) There are the usual North/South tensions within the fort but Tucker is an honourable man who tries to do his duty.Kenniston's behaviour is so outrageous that eventually Tucker and his men decide to desert to Texas.Meanwhile Kenniston who by now is almost completely deranged commits murder when he shoots an Indian chief's son.The consequence of this is that the Indians lay siege to the fort. Captain Bradford escapes and rides after Tucker's men and explains the situation to them.Its no great surprise when Tucker and his Confederates decide to ride back to the fort to support the people there which includes women and children. A pitched battle follows which is magnificently staged though some reviews state that it was explicitly violent,perhaps but compared to "Soldier Blue" for example it is fairly restrained. Major Kenniston in a complete change of character agrees to give himself up to the Indians who will then leave peacefully and spare the fort.The scene where he walks through the gates into a mist is brilliantly done and one can only imagine the terrible death he must have suffered. It is a superbly done cavalry western and in all deference to John Ford a complete absence of knock about Irish humour is most welcome. The cast is superb, here we have Cornel Wilde in his last film for 20th Century Fox playing almost a supporting role being expendable.He was at his best as a team player in films like "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "Womens World".Jeff Chandler is a revelation, normally a fairly monolithic presence here he is quite chilling as a completely troubled man who at the end atones for his actions giving his life so that others may live.As for Joseph Cotton though usually associated with lounge suit roles here he is excellent as the decent and honourable Confederate Colonel,and lucky chap ,at he end he gets the girl the lovely Linda Darnel. As an added bonus the supporting cast contains such western icons as Dale Robertson,Jay C.Flippen,Noah Beery and best of all Arthur Hunnicutt. A wonderful western of the type they don't make any more where the premise is that you don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
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Superb Civil War western, unjustly forgotten
gerdeen-120 January 2012
"Two Flags West" is a real surprise, entertaining and powerful. It contains its share of Hollywood clichés: Yankees and Rebels teaming up to fight Indians; an unhinged officer commanding a lonely outpost; a beautiful women creating tension among comrades in arms. But it's original in the way it handles them.

Jeff Chandler plays Maj. Henry Kenniston, a Union officer put in charge of a desert fort after being partially disabled by a war wound. Distrustful of Indians and bitter about his assignment, he dreams of returning to the war and taking revenge on the Confederates who hurt him and killed his brother.

Worst of all, Kenniston is obsessed with his brother's widow (played by Linda Darnell). He's an honorable man in his own way, and he feels a genuine sense of responsibility toward her. He tells himself he's keeping her at the fort for her own protection. But in his heart, he lusts after her, and he hates himself for doing so.

When reinforcements arrive at this troubled outpost, Kenniston is shocked to find that most are former Confederate POWs. They have pledged to serve the Union as Indian fighters as long as they don't have to make war on fellow Southerners.

To the already unstable major, being put in command of such troops is a crushing insult. And it doesn't help his state of mind when the Southerners' leader (played by Joseph Cotten) and an idealistic Union officer (played by Cornel Wilde) begin to show interest in the beautiful widow themselves. Kenniston soon embarks on a course of action guaranteed to alienate both the Indians and the Southerners -- and endanger the peace.

"Two Flags West" is a well plotted western, with events that flow from the characters' motivations instead of from a predictable plot. It's full of action, and its violence is grimly realistic for the time it was made.

Chandler is excellent as a complex, disastrous leader who inspires anger, pity and even some admiration in the viewer. Darnell, in one of her better roles, makes a convincing object of desire. Cotten and Wilde are fine, although they could have switched roles and still been just as effective.

Any fan of westerns ought to enjoy this a lot, and non-fans should give it a look.
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Courage and Honor
tmills7778 February 2002
I first saw this movie when it came out and it has remained my favorite cavalry movie of all time. Yes, even more than the great ones John Ford produced, but not by much. In this story a detachment of cavalry is called upon to defend the plains and west from the Indians who have taken advantage of the Civil War to wreak havoc among the settlers, trappers, and gold seekers. This unit, however, has former prisoners from the CSA, who have been remanded from prison to serve in the west with the Yankee cavalry. If one knows anything about prison conditions in the north or south during the war, it is not difficult to see why many southern prisoners opted for service against the Indians. During World War II, the Germans got many Europeans and Russian prisoners to fight for them as the alternative in prison camps was tantamount to death. This story centers around a fort commanded by Jeff Chandler character, who tricks an Indian chief, killing, I believe his son or brother. The enraged chief attacks the fort with overwhelming force and only when Jeff Chandler goes out of the fort to trade his life for those left in the fort, does the attack stop with his sacrificial death. After a relief column arrives at the fort, do the survivors learn that the war is over and the south has lost. An interesting bit of history and true. Unfortunately there was another aspect to the Indian wars on the plains that has received short shrift, and that is the service rendered by the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry regiments: the Buffalo soldiers; the all-black army units who served faithfully and with honor for over twenty years, trying to subdue a people who wanted to live free for the benefit of a government that treated these soldiers as second class citizens. To my memory, only two films have been made about these Buffalo soldiers, and both 30 years apart. Yes, Two Flags West ably covers the part that southern prisoners played in the settling of the west, but it has taken too long to tell the story of the black soldiers who, often facing discrimination within the army itself, and trouble from white settlers, still carried out their duty. I hope that this fine film, Two Flags West, will come out in VHS soon.
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Superior Credits - Superior Western
krocheav1 December 2013
You only have to look at the production credits to see that this western has the promise of being an above average yarn. And it is. When my Brother in Law asked me if I wanted to see this film, I hesitated, expecting another run-of-the-mill Cavalry show. After noting the impressive cast and behind the scenes crew, just had to take a look.

For it's year, it's a surprise in both story elements and production handling. Not having before seen Jeff Chandler take a lead role in an 'A' grade feature (and this being quite early in his tragically short career) I had not realised he was such a professional performer. It seems his Universal International years may have sold him short. His performance as an embittered commanding officer in this film is a powerful one.

For me, Multi Award winning Director Robert Wise has always been a favorite, and this western is further proof of his skillful hand. Helping Mr Wise is another multi Award winner, Director of Photography: Leon Shamroy. I was surprised that Fox did not use Techicolor for this outdoor epic, but pleased they did not. The powerful on-location settings, featuring low horizon shots and huge dramatic sky scape's, dwarf the humans as they strive to survive this hostile environment. The wonderful use of quality black and white stock, evokes the visual poetry of a John Ford classic.

Cornel Wilde, does what Wilde does best, and Cotton is reliable as always. The cast is good right down to the support players. Linda Darnell is convincing as the sole female lead and the reason for her character to be in this situation is fully believable. This beautiful woman also had a tragically short career, both Chandler and Darnell died within months of the same age (Chandler only 42 through Medical 'misadventure' ~ Darnell 41 following a house fire) The original story is above average (founded on some historical facts) it was co-written by Curtis Kenyon and Frank S. Nugent ~ two writers also known for their screenplays. Their story was then honed into a tight adaptation for the screen by the great Casey Robinson ('Kings Row' etc) Robinson also Produced this film, so had a strong interest in it's success. If you enjoy character driven action entertainment, then this could be a western for you.

The Music credits are also interesting, with Fox's resident composer, the marvelous Alfred Newman taking a back seat as: Musical Director to composer: Hugo Friedhofer (although Newman contributed some incidental music) The score adds handsomely to the powerful images. Much of the dramatic action is surprisingly graphic and superbly staged, showing considerable time and care had been taken in all areas.

I have heard 20th Century Fox sadly junked many of their B/W Negatives when the studio foolishly made the decision to make 95% of their later films in CinemaScope and Color (a poor move in terms of artistic creativity) For the DVD release, they have at least produced a good digital master from available fine-grains and release prints. Recommended, and worth buying.
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A neglected page of history
JohnHowardReid2 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Superbly photographed by ace cinematographer Leon Shamroy, and directed by Robert Wise with far more style than he was later to invest on The Sound of Music, this A-grade western seems to be largely forgotten, even by connoisseurs. True, the movie doesn't have what you would call an alluring 2013 cast. Joseph Cotten is first-billed, but the fans who flocked to see Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane, The Third Man and Niagara were actually far more interested in Orson Welles or Marilyn Monroe (and were mightily encouraged to think that way by the advertising blitz that heavily promoted Welles or Marilyn and left Cotten in the dark. I remember Henry Hathaway once remarked that as far as audiences were concerned, Cotten was such a lightweight that he made little or no impression at all). Third-billed Linda Darnell made a terrific impact in Fallen Angel (1946) and then rose to fame in the title role of Forever Amber (1947). Although she was by far the most interesting wife in A Letter to Three Wives (1948), her career slipped. On the other hand, Jeff Chandler, Cornel Wilde, Dale Robertson and even Jay C. Flippen were on the way up. Indeed all the players here fit into their roles like the proverbial gloves. Production values also leave nothing to be desired, and, as noted above, Robert Wise's always stylish direction provides some really magnificent moments, including a compelling, full-of-action climax. The screenplay was written by Casey Robinson, who also produced. Frank S. Nugent and Curtis Kenyon wrote the original screen story which they based on a December 8, 1863 proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln which permitted Southern POWs to swear allegiance to the Union, thereby restoring their citizenship and right to own property (except slaves, of course). Over 6,000 Confederate prisoners obtained their freedom by joining the Union army to fight the Indians in the west – it being tacitly agreed that they would never be asked to turn their arms against the South. The film was released in New York at the Rivoli on 12 October 1950. U.K. release date was 4 December 1950.
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I liked the movie. It helped me understand that history.
Dana-5030 September 1999
In doing research I have a relative that did the same thing. Until I saw the movie I didn't understand how someone could switch sides during the civil. Is this movie based on a book? This is an over looked part of Civil War History. I would like to know if there are other movies about this part of history?
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One ot the Best American Civil War Westerns!!!
zardoz-1319 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" director Robert Wise helmed only two westerns during his long career in Hollywood. The first was a Robert Mitchum oater, and the second was the Civil War western Two Flags West. Movies about the American Civil War out west usually dealt with the Confederates trying to commandeer gold for the Lost Cause. Two Flags West qualifies as one of the best simply because it doesn't rely on a contrived plot. Instead, there is a lot of historical accuracy. The premise in Casey Robinson's screenplay based on a story by Curtis Kenyon and Frank Nugent concerns Southern prisoners-of-war who are released from prison camps on the condition that they don Union blue and fight hostile Native Americans. Despite its having been made before the advent of Cinemascope, "Two Flags West" is a pictorially elegant, black & white masterpiece of composition. A panning shot early on of the desert with Union cavalry riding through the austere terrain pulls back to reveal Indians atop mountains observing the troops. Indeed, this panoramic image is straight out of a John Ford western. In 1863 we are told that Abraham Lincoln offered Confederate soldier the chance to take an oath to the Union and be allowed to put on Yankee uniforms. Union officer Captain Mark Bradford (Cornel Wilde) puts the offer to Southern Colonel Clay Tucker (Joseph Cotton of "The Hellbenders") and he lets his imprisoned men made their decision. Naturally, they don't like the deal, but they abhor prison, so Tucker takes a demotion to Second Lieutenant and his men join him. Once they arrive at the fort, fort commandant Major Henry Kenniston (Jeff Chandler of "Broken Arrow") doesn't trust Tucker and his rebels. Moreover, he expects them to defect.

Kenniston is a grim character. He is lame and jealous of his brother whose wife, Elena Kenniston (Linda Darnell of "My Darling Clementine") sulks because she wants to go to California and rejoin her family, but Kenniston refuses to let her out of his sight. Eventually, when Kenniston assigns Tucker and his troops to provide an escort for a wagon train, Elena persuades a minister and his wife to let her hide in their wagon. During the journey, Tucker learns about her presence. At the same time, a Confederate spy masquerading as a Union agent confides in Tucker that he can serve the South best by refusing to desert and staying with Kenniston. Kenniston is convinced that Tucker and his men will desert, but Tucker surprises him by not only returning but also bringing back Elena. Meantime, while Tucker is out on patrol trying to locate mysterious wagon trains, Kennison goes berserk and murders the son of an Indian chief and the tribe surrounds the fort. Tucker learns about Kennison's misfortune and decides not to desert but ride to Kennison's aid.

"Two Flags West" boasts a strong cast. Joseph Cotton is at his virile zenith with Jeff Chandler delivering a commanding performance as the paranoid Kennison. Cornel Wilde, Dale Robertson, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Noah Beery Jr., round out the cast. If you enjoy Civil War westerns, "Two Flags West" should be on your not-to-be-missed list.
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Intelligent 'A' Feature Western
Richard Chatten5 February 2018
The second of only two westerns directed by the always interesting Robert Wise. As befits a reunion between two veterans of 'Citizen Kane' (Wise, who edited it, and star Joseph Cotton), 'Two Faces West' boasts pin-sharp black & white photography by Leon Shamroy and roofed sets, all well as impressive skyscapes shot in New Mexico.

Backed by a vintage supporting cast, this is a relatively early example of the black & white postwar 'adult' western that occasionally brought gravitas to the genre during the fifties, with a plot that vaguely anticipates 'The Dirty Dozen', with a violent climax to match.
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Astonishingly good cast of astonishingly big names
Michael Morrison4 January 2015
Not often do we get this kind of "all-star" cast and far too rarely do we get this much talent in one movie.

There is no need to name the stars here -- but it is a pleasure just to look at the list here at IMDb -- however it is worth repeating they are huge talents.

The premise, of Confederate soldiers, prisoners of war, enlisted to fight "Indians" on the Western frontier, has been used several times, and at least once ("The Last Outpost") Confederate regulars joined with Yankee troops to battle the tribes.

Paraphrasing -- badly -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, "I hate war films," and I hate the premise that progress comes because of war. I hate the phony premise that war brings glory.

Actually, this is a more accurate observation: "War--after all, what is it that the people get? Why--widows, taxes, wooden legs and debt." ~Samuel B. Pettengill

So, the death and destruction do not appeal to me as entertainment, but I still admire the high production values and, again, the astonishingly talented cast.

I thank the Encore network for presenting this and urge everyone who can to see it.
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Native Americans win against reluctant Yanks + Rebs cavalry combo, in well made "Fort Apache"-like Civil War western
weezeralfalfa23 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A generally excellent and very unusual blend of leading characters for a Civil War western is combined with an unusual and tension-filled script, released by Fox and directed by Robert Wise: neither much known for their westerns. This B&W film was released shortly after Jeff Chandler costarred as Apache chief Cochise, in the well- regarded "Broken Arrow". Here, he plays the fort commander(Major Kenniston), in a region of troublesome 'Indians', evidently in SE New Mexico, not far from the Texas border. This is a risky place to have sent a contingent of dyed-in-the-wool ex-Confederate cavalry prisoners-of-war, who reluctantly agreed to serve as Union cavalry in the West, as opposed to continued rotting in a prisoner camp. The war clearly had entered its terminal phase, as Sherman was manhandling Georgia. Historically, a policy was initiated early in 1864, which allowed Confederate POWs to be repatriated if they would serve as Union soldiers: labelled as 'galvanized Yankees'. About 7000 POWs took advantage of this offer, mostly sent to areas far removed from the major battles of the time. This meant mostly to areas of the West which were undermanned, due to the exodus to the East, and where Native Americans(NA) were troublesome. However, unlike in the film, they were assigned as infantry, not as cavalry, and most were sent to outposts far from unconquered Confederate territory, thus further reducing the incentive to desert.

Getting back to this film, in addition to Chandler, as Major Kenniston, we have frequent leading men Cornel Wilde and Joseph Cotten, who hardly are thought of as western or soldier actors,but add their charisma as Union and ex-Confederate officers, respectively. Cotten is OK in his pivotal role; but I would have preferred Randy Scott: clearly a true southerner by his speech. We are very lucky to have beautiful, forceful, Linda Darnell as the lead female(Elena), scripted as the widowed Latino wife of Chandler's brother , killed in battle in the East. She's decided to tag along with Chandler for a while, until joining a wagon train for her California home. The chief supporting actors include the always charismatic Arthur Hunnicutt, who provides an element of gritty authenticity to the ex-Confederates that Cotten(as Lt. Tucker) cannot, and Jay Flippen, as his Yankee counterpart, as sergeant.

In Major Kenniston, I see strong parallels with Colonel Thursday, in the prior "Fort Apache". Both despise the regional unpredictable Native Americans. Both make a fatal mistake in insulting them, and in underestimating their ability to take revenge on him and his command., and both pay the ultimate price for their folly. Major Kenniston actually is looked upon as a hero in his demise, suffering a fate similar to that of Jose Mendoz, in "Seven Cities of Gold", and Sir Robert, in "Hudson's Bay", for example. Cotten(Tucker) takes on John Wayne's role in "Fort Apache", more or less, while Linda takes on Shirley Temple's role. Some other aspects of the screen play resemble Ford's recent "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon".

In contrast to most Hollywood westerns of this era, even the NA chiefs appear to be real NAs. The main war chief is named Satank, who was a real Kiowa war chief during this era. However, SE NM is rather far west and south of the Kiowa's homeland, being Apache country. Also, most of the NA have Apache-styled headbands. Confusing! Although Hollywood liked to include the occasional NA attack on army forts, in fact, such were very rare on well built forts. They were typically too lethal for the NAs, who couldn't afford to lose many warriors in battle, with their decimated populations. The battle scenes, both outside and inside the fort are rather well staged. Included is an extended shot of a soldier with his shirt burning, after struck in the back with a flaming arrow. I hope he had some good fire-proof insulation under his shirt!

We learn that Kenniston(Chandler) spent some time in the Richmond Libby POW facility, from which he escaped, probably as part of the historic mass escape somewhat dramatized in the 1940 Civil War western "Virginia City". We also learn that Kenniston's brother(Elena's husband) was killed in a charge lead by Tucker. Kenniston holds a personal grudge against Tucker for this, as well as a general hatred of all rebels, be they Confederate or NA.

During the course of the film, it becomes clear that all 3 of the main officers(including Wilde as Bradford) , have hopes of snaring Elena. It also becomes clear that Kenniston's persistent refusal to give her permission to leave has less to do with the NA threat than his desire to keep her near. However, she's not interested in him as a suitor. She's more accommodating with Tucker and Bradford(who is killed), but it's clear they are secondary to her ambition to return to her California homeland.(Reportedly, privately , Linda much preferred the company of Chandler)

Near the film ending, after the attacking NAs have left and we learn that Sherman has completed his subjugation of Georgia, we have an informal friendly competition between the Yanks and former Confederates in singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" vs. "Dixie". There was a similar scene in the subsequent Civil War western "Column South", which has several other commonalities with this film, including being scripted as taking place in New Mexico. However, that story takes place just prior to the opening shots of the war, rather than near it's terminus.

Linda Darnell reportedly hated being cast as a cowgirl, because she suffered from dust and horse allergies.
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An OK Movie
denis88827 September 2013
The story of so called Galvanized Yankees (imprisones Confederates, opting to swear allegiance to the Union and joining the Ynion army to fight with Indians in the frontier) is not so well documented, thus fresh and can be quite good. THis old, black and white movie is a quick glance on this piece of history. The movie itself is OK - it is not devoid of all certain clichés of 50's works - horrible Indian murderers, dazzling ladies, handsome tall men, laughable battle scenes with all the poor montage and sped-up action sequence. Here, a very strong cast (Joseph Cotten as Col. Clay Tucker Linda Darnell as Elena Kenniston Jeff Chandler as Maj. Henry Kenniston Cornel Wilde as Capt. Mark Bradford Dale Robertson as Lem Jay C. Flippen as Sgt. Duffy Noah Beery Jr. as Corp. Cy Davis (as Noah Beery) Harry von Zell as Ephraim Strong Johnny Sands as Lt. Adams (as John Sands) Arthur Hunnicutt as Sgt. Pickens)is a big asset, but still, the somewhat trite and predictable pace ruins a very potent idea. The film is not bad, but it is not better, either. It borders on the brim of greatness, but still plunges mostly down, due to very banal plot twists and very obvious dialog lines. But still, it is OK and can be watched well.
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