Eye For Film >> Movies >> She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) Film Review
Legendary director John Ford re-teamed with Mr Charisma himself – John Wayne – for the second part of Ford’s ‘Cavalry Trilogy’, in a tale of an esteemed army officer set on completing his last mission before retirement.
Although not seen as a conventional trilogy, Ford’s three films all share a military setting, as was seen in Fort Apache and the director’s third instalment, Rio Grande.
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon has John Wayne in his traditional leading man status, playing Captain Nathan Brittles, a tobacco-chomping, 40-year cavalry veteran just six days away from retirement. But just before Brittles can wave goodbye to the army, someone’s untimely death requires him to lead his men into one final voyage to prevent an impending Indian attack. Before Brittles can set off, his plans are disrupted early on as he is forced to bring along the young and beautiful Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru) and his commanding officer’s better half Abby Allshard (Mildred Natwick) aka ‘old iron pants’. The ladies' plans are to see the west because as Miss Dandridge puts it the pair are “not 'army' enough to stay the winter”, however, this has serious consequences for Brittles' men and puts their entire mission into uncertainty.
Set across the south-west of America, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon sees Ford and Wayne on top form. Russ Morgan’s wonderful theme song and Winton C Hoch’s vibrant cinematography just add to the blatant first-class acting. Wayne’s role as the Indian-fighting captain will go down as one of his best ever, Brittles' endearing character and outlook on life - “Never apologise, it’s a sign of weakness” - make the perfect partnership along with his scotch-drinking associate Sgt Tyree (played wonderfully by Ben Johnson).
While the storyline can be a little so-so at times and contains a somewhat aggravating and perhaps fruitless sub-plot involving Olivia and Brittles' number two – LT Flint Cohill (John Agar), the film is still well paced enough and is sufficient evidence of the talent John Ford held, especially when it comes to handling some of the film’s more emotional set pieces.
Of course we had to wait another 17 years until the director and his leading man took part in their finest hour, Ford’s excellent - The Searchers, however Ribbon is still a terrific western and a landmark in one of cinema's greatest collaborations.Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2008