Saturday, August 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) ***

NR, 103 min.
Director: John Ford
Writers: Frank Nugent, Lawrence Stallings, James Warner Bellah
Starring: John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McGlaglen, Mildred Natwick, George O’Brien, Arthur Shields, Michael Dugan, Chief John Big Tree, Fred Graham, Chief Sky Eagle, Tom Tyler, Noble Johnson

“She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” is one of those classic westerns that has been on my list of to see movies for a very long time. I’m sure at the time of its release it was a great movie, but with the amount of age it has on it at this point, it is merely good. It includes a great deal of cinematic cliché that was perceived as what was proper for a film at the time, but today dates the movie with schmaltz and corniness.

The story centers on a military outpost on the western frontier immediately after the massacre of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn. Tensions are high because of the “Indian threat.” John Wayne’s Captain Nathan Brittles is a mere week away from retirement. He heads a caravan to the North for his final assignment. Along for the ride is Olivia Dandridge who wears a yellow ribbon in her hair, a sign that she has a beau in the regiment, but she won’t say for whom. The caravan is attacked and force to turn back to the fort.

There are a great deal of well versed notions about the military man who knows no other way, the silliness of the ways of women, the butting of heads between those who know how it really is and the higher command who is clueless, and how easy it can be to resolve conflict if the right person does the talking. Like I said, it’s good. There’s nothing here inherently wrong with the material. Except for the depiction of the Native Americans and their reasoning. This is solid classic western stuff, but it isn’t deep. It isn’t profound. It’s just basic.

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