For whatever reasons, Wayne's performances in westerns tend to be of a higher quality than in his other films and that is especially true of his work in this film, based on two of James Warner Bellah's short stories. Wayne portrays Captain Nathan Brittles who is about to retire. As the last day of his command approaches, Brittles must meanwhile cope with an Apache uprising which even his longtime friend Chief Pony That Walks (Chief John Big Tree) cannot prevent. One sub plot involves two young lieutenants who compete for Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru). One is Flint Cohill played by John Agar who appeared previously in Fort Apache as Lieutenant Michael O'Rourke. Other members of the John Ford Repertory Players include Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, Arthur Shields, Harry Carey, Jr., and Ben Jonson who is especially effective as Sergeant Tyree.
Frankly, I dislike westerns shot in color. Also, John Ford apparently had problems when directing actresses. (Maureen O'Hara's performance in The Quiet Man is a stunning exception.) More often than not, Ford's female characters are presented as saints, children, or furniture. I would have much preferred that this film had been shot in black-and-white, that the Olivia Dandridge character be omitted, and that the film focus entirely on the completion of Brittles' last command. Wayne is absolutely brilliant when Brittles is presented with a gold watch from his troops and struggles withy his eyeglasses so that he can read the inscription, "Lest We Forget." His conversation with Chief Pony That Walks in the Apache camp is also memorable. Wayne has better material to work with in this film than he had in Fort Apache (1948). In my opinion, his performance is flawless. Nevertheless, I rate this film a notch or two below Fort Apache and Rio Grande in which Ford is much less self-indulgent.
John Ford's 1949 film "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" is one of the best movies at depicting how a good leader mentors his subordinates preparing them for leadership roles and increasing responsibility. Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne), a Civil War hero on the eve of retirement during the Indian Wars of the 1870's, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack. Besides having to develop Lt. Flint Cohill, (John Agar) and the "wet behind the ears" 2nd … more
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The second installment of John Ford's famous cavalry trilogy (which also includesFort ApacheandRio Grande), this meditative Western continues the director's fascination with history's obliteration of the past. It features one of John Wayne's more sensitive performances as Capt. Nathan Brittles, a stern yet sentimental war horse who has difficulty preparing for his impending military retirement. All things considered, he refuses to leave before fulfilling his obligation to the local Indian tribe. It's a film about honor and duty as well as loneliness and mortality. And Oscar-winner Winton C. Hoch beautifully photographs it in Remington-like Technicolor tones (you've never seen such stunning cloud-covered skies). The combination of melancholy and farce (Victor McLaglen makes a perfect court jester) evokes comparisons to Shakespeare. Best of all, the scene in which Wayne fights back tears when receiving a gold watch from his troops is unforgettably bittersweet. If you view the whole trilogy, it actually makes sense to save this for last.--Bill Desowitz