After a cavalry charge during the 1916 U.S. "war against Pancho Villa," unheroic awards officer Tom Thorn (who is obsessed with the nature of courage) recommends 4 men for the Medal of Honor. He is ordered back to Cordura with them...and prisoner Adelaide Geary, gringo who sheltered the enemy. On the arduous journey, Thorn's heroes show a different face, and Thorn may have one last chance to prove he's no coward. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Wayne said, "How they got Gary Cooper to do that one! To me, at least, it simply degrades the Medal of Honor. The whole story makes a mockery of America's highest award for valor. The whole premise of the story was wrong, illogical, because they don't pick the type of men the movie picked to win the award, and that can be proved by the very history of the award." See more »
One of the soldiers is singing the folk song Denver, which was written by Randy Sparks for the New Christy Minstrels in 1962. the movie is set in the Mexican Wars in 1916. See more »
On the night of March 8th, 1916, a large mounted force of Mexican rebels under Pancho Villa crossed the American Border and attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing and wounding both American civilians and soldiers.
As a result of this action,the United States Army sent an expedition into Mexico with orders to capture Villa and disperse his forces.
It was during this campaign that one man, an United States Army officer,was forced to come face to face with two of the great fundamental questions that affect mankind:
What Is Courage? What Is Cowardice?
This is the story of his search for an answer. See more »
Imperfect, overlong and superficially wordy but still an interesting story
Angered by the US President Wilson's increasing support the rising Mexican political leader General Carranaza, the former US darling Francisco Villa sends his group of rebels to raid a town in New Mexico before coming back over the border. Enraged by the audacity of the man, Wilson orders his troops across the border to catch and/or kill Villa. Part of the group he sends is Major Thomas Thorn, who has been given the job of assessing the men for possible awards a comfortable job given to him by Colonel Rogers, a friend of his father. Fascinated by the nature of heroes, Thorn finds himself given command of a small group of them when he refuses to put Rogers forward for a citation. Thorn is keen to get to know more of the men but, with a captured woman in tow, the men are not as simple as their proposed medals would suggest.
Despite pretty much ignoring the interesting history that serves as a backdrop to this film, this is actually still quite an interesting film that was a lot rawer than I expected it to be, given the period in which it was made. In the early stages it was too basic and I worried that the whole thing would be as clunky as Thorn's early questioning of some of his "heroes", but gradually it got better as it went on and simple lines such as hero and coward were eroded away. This is not to say it is brilliant because it most certainly is not but it is certainly interesting for what it tries to do. It doesn't help that the script really labours the surface but lacks the ability to go significantly deep to really make an impact. However even with this, it was still interesting enough to hold me and I did enjoy the solid if simplistic moral debate that it delivered.
Rossen and his cinematography do great work with the wide-open landscapes but the former must also carry the can for not bringing more emotion out of the script consistently. As a result the cast do well without really excelling with nobody guiding them deeper, this is really what I could have expected. Cooper is as solid as usual with what I suppose was a brave role for him to take. He deals with it well but perhaps wasn't good enough to really convince in layers although he is superficially good enough. Hayworth doesn't have that great a character and her delivery occasionally gets a bit too over-the-top when asked to deliver more emotionally charged material, she has impact but I was looking for more pain and fear. The support cast work well with what they have been given to do. Conte, Heflin, Keith and Hunter are among those giving solid turns in support of Cooper and the raw story.
Overall then this is not a great film but it is an interesting one. Despite being over 45 years old it is surprising raw and willing to turn away from the simple lines of courageous and cowardly towards something that is much realer and well conceived. It doesn't go deep enough but it is strong on the surface could easily have been tighter and dropped 20-30 minutes from the running time but is still worth a look for what it does do well.
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