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A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the commander. The secret plan for the mission is overheard by a southern belle who must be taken along to assure her silence. The Union officers each have different reasons for wanting to be on the mission. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The "...and I didn't kill either one of them..." speech is one of my favorite Wayne moments. Plainly past his conventionality, the Marlowe character gives breathtaking short shrift to the unending pettiness and fallibility he encounters; Kirby, Kendall, congressional wannabes, reb deserters et.al. It's an exemplar of the 'Duke' personna: dubious provenance, grand stature, indomitable purpose and a trace of sentiment. I'l put it with Searchers, Liberty', and Shootist (Wallace Beery impersonation in True Grit aside) as one of his best efforts.
Ford's battle scenes are as usual patriotically free of blood and require no reflection but the imagery is great (you want to join the cavalry) and the detail outstanding. We hear the clanking of canteens and cookpots, an argument over the placement of latrines and see the only filmic presentation of the making of Sherman Neckties (warped rails). The Ford family is well represented though we miss Harry Carey Jr (and Paul Fixx must have been tied up with the Rifleman).
If we had to have a love interest, Maureen Ohara could have at least tied this to "Rio Grande" and furthered the Ford library.
Normally wonderful Bill Holden has only brief bright moments and is mostly going through the motions and hung-over here. Neither Wayne nor Ford were slouches when it came to curling whiskey but by his own admission Holden aggravated all and threatened production with reckless, drunken extracurriculae, breaking an arm falling from a bridge.
This film was an inspiration in grade school and a guilty pleasure since.
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