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on May 30, 2002
That's the line Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) keeps repeating at different junctures throughout this John Ford classic of a retiring cavalry officer and the last mission he must preside over.
But although Brittles may not hold with apologizing, we see that his life has had many ups and downs, and will have more before this mission is complete. He and his men must escort his commander's wife and her niece to catch the stage back east, a task made dangerous because of the recent massacre of Custer at the Little Big Horn. There are two storylines at work here: a love triangle of the niece who's playing off two young soldiers against each other, and Brittles' more engrossing story as the old officer tries to carry out this last mission in a world where young blood continually stirs up trouble on the warpath--literally.
Wayne does one of his best jobs here, playing a man much older than his actual age. One wonders what he might have done differently had "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" come later in his career, in the 1960s or early 70s. Nevertheless, even though the picture was 25 years ahead of schedule for Wayne, he does a convincing portrayal of the timeworn captain who understands that there is little of glory in the calvary, but much honor if you do your duty. Frequent co-star Victor McLaglin is on hand again, this time as Sgt. Quincannon, also due for retirement in the next few days. This is one of those "stage Irish" performances, more than slightly over the top, replete with whiskey drinking and brawling, but not troublesome for all that.
Ford rarely handles women convincingly, and Joanne Dru is no exception. She looks more like a 1940s WAC than a 19th century girl visiting the still-untamed West, but Harry Carey Jr and John Agar aren't much help either. Of the younger crowd, the best job is turned in by Ben Johnson, that master horseman who populated not a few of the Ford calvary pictures. He playes Sgt. Tyree, a former Confederate captain who now is an enlisted man in the calvary. This speaks to the uneasy attempt to meld together two armies lately at war with each other, who now must unite to bring the west and the Indians down under US government authority.
There are three major factors that make "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" a standout:
One is John Wayne's performance. The second is the Nathan Brittles storyline. The third?
Absolutely breathtaking cinematography. One knows that this picture's Best Cinematography Oscar was won by just one scene--that amazing storm gathering cloud threatening down on the the calvary as they march through Monument Valley. There are other good shots, but that's the Award-winner, no doubt about that.
For those who think that all westerns are the same, make it your business to watch "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" to correct that misconception--and no apologies, please; it's a sign of weakness.
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on April 1, 2002
John Ford wants to paint a live fresco of the cavalry after Custer's death. So he chose an outpost of the cavalry and a captain who is going to retire. It is the story of his last days. There is no vision of the massacre of the Indians. There is no balanced vision of these Indian wars. The only moment when some distanciation is visible is when two whites are trying to sell fireguns to the Indians. They are punished in their attempt to make money out of these wars by being killed by the Indians. This gives of the Indians a vision of untrustworthy behavior. But what is essential is the attitude of the cavalrymen when they are confronted to two women who want to travel west in spite of the danger : tourism in times of war. These young men are shown as gallant and ready to serve these women as best they can, even if it means death for them. The vision of the cavalry is emotional too because the captain who retires does so with a deep grief in his heart. Once a cavalryman, forever a cavalryman. And he gets his nomination as a scout when he is already on his way to California. So he comes back and faces the end of his life in this outpost, fighting against Indians. A very well done film but rather shallow in meaning.
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on January 16, 2002
If there's one John Wayne film just crying for a DVD release, this is it.
Director John Ford once said he could conceive of nothing more beautiful than a horse in full stride. There are plenty of them in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon but even more than that, there's Monument Valley in a way that only John Ford could have filmed it.
It's no accident that a Monument Valley vista now bears the name "John Ford's Point." And She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is THE John Ford Monument Valley film.

There have been scores of Monument Valley films but no other is this good. Just look at the way the West Mitten hangs over Captain Brittles' moving scene at his wife's grave and the thunderstorm building over the wagons where Ford overruled his cinematographer and kept the cameras rolling.
Many of us believe this is John Wayne's best acting performance ever and that his True Grit Oscar was payback two decades later, just as Henry Fonda's On Golden Pond statue was payback for The Grapes of Wrath.
Let's just say that Wayne's performance here is so good if ever anyone argues that he was a celebrity more than an actor, the best way to refute them is simply to roll She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
But, please, please, PLEASE ! we need to be able to roll it in DVD.
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on July 2, 2000
Then think again. "She Wore a Yelloe Ribbon" is one of the Duke's greatest and most subtle performances. His interplay with the masterful Victor McLaglen is memorable and oftentimes hilarious. In this movie, Wayne fully understands the emotions and complexities of his character Nathan Brittles, the retiring cavalry leader.
One of the greatest scenes that John Wayne ever played is when the troop gives him a gold watch upon his retirement. As he slowly removes his spectacles, wipes them off and then reads the sentiment, you really see that Wayne may not have had the greatest range of any actor, but he was a great actor in the right role. His characterization of Captain Nathan Brittles is near the top of the list in all-time Duke performances.
I've seen this movie 30 times or more and never weary of it. You always see something new each time you view it. There is humor, pathos and action here and as always, John Ford's masterful direction. A must see!
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on March 19, 2004
When this film was released I was six years old, living in grey, cold, bankrupt post war Britain, a world of food and clothing rationing. Cinema was pure escapism and I thank my parents for taking me there every week. Westerns were big in those days. They had titles such as "Broken Arrow" or "Winchester 73". As my love of cinema was slowly nurtured "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" left an indelible impression on my psyche. I loved every bit of it. The odyessic story, with its lack of 'white man good' 'red indian bad' stereotyping. The sophistication of Ford's direction with its cool appreciation of America's big country. The actors - Wayne, of course, towering above all, and decades before he blotted his copybook with his embarrasing gung-ho roles, to Victor McLagen's 'Oirish' knockabout sargeant, via the under-stated work of Joanne Dru and John Agar. "Never apologise, son. It's a sign of weakness." A simply unbeatable movie.
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on July 11, 2004
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON is the second leg of greatness in the John Ford Cavalry Trilogy. Cinematography-wise SWAYR is the jewel in the crown, it's much heralded Oscar winning celluloid images are breathtaking. All three films have their own moments of greatness, here it's John Wayne as Capt. Nathan Brittles, in make-up aging him 20 years no less "making his report" graveside to his wife and daughter; His receiving his silver watch from his troops ("Lest we forget,") and his negotiating Victor McLaglen's retirement ("A man of a thirst like that can't survive on less than a sergeant's pension!"). Of course there is the cavalry's march to their 3 theme songs: "Garry Owen", "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" and "The Girl I Left Behind Me" (a constant in the trilogy). Sterling performances across the board. SWAYR is an all time classic.
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on May 13, 2003
Everybody says "The Searchers" is the best Western ever made... Well, I like it a lot, to be sure, but when I step into the living room and have to chose between it or "She wore a yellow ribbon" (among other DVD's) I will always pick the later first.
I think it's the best one by the team Ford/Wayne by far, those who say Wayne could'nt act must see this film, probably doing films like this is what made him "larger then life" and subsequently made new rols or films as WAYNE films (a continuity of purpose overused in his last films wich incredibly are mainly suportable by HIS performance...).
Wayne is up there with Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and very few others wich always were THEMSELVES over their rols/parts in the movie.
Enough said, get "The Horse Soldiers" if you liked "She wore a yellow ribbon".
Really a SIX stars film.
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on April 30, 2002
Both Howard Hawks and John Ford understood that the older they became,
the more important male friendships were to them.
This is one of the best examples from Ford. The film has a warmth
and unmistakable magical quality to its sense of humor. It bears
up very well under repeaded viewings and the relationship between
John Wayne and Victor McLaglen is just the best. Wayne's character
exhibits a maturity and wisdom here that is very moving. It helps
to have seen a little of life before viewing this film. But, then,
that is true of all of John Ford's and Howard Hawks' work.
You just have to have lived life to appreciate it in their films.
One of my favorites and every bit the equal to "Rio Bravo."
It's the perfect film to watch while enjoying a rare New York steak
and a good bottle of red wine.
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on June 4, 2002
This wonderful movie epitomizes so much that is powerful about the work of John Ford--his eye for composition, his sense of victory in defeat, his celebration of community and the competing forces that threaten it and bind it together. Other reviewers have commented on the relative weakness of performances by the younger players: I think that fits one of his themes, as the inexorable passage of time forces the older generation to yield to not-quite-ready callow youths.
One reviewer complained that this DVD was released in a TV ratio, and advised us to wait for the widescreen version. In 1949, when this movie was released, there was no widescreen. The film was shot in the standard Academy format, 1.33 times as wide as it is tall. I don't think we're losing any edges by seeing it this way.
Highly recommended.
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on June 17, 2002
This late 40's film is another love letter to the US Cavalry from director John Ford ( his others being "Fort Apache" and "Rio Grande" ). While everybody here gives good performances, it's John Wayne's portrayal of an aging Cavalry officer three days shy of retiring that is the lynchpin of this film. His convincing performance of a man 20+ years his actual age should've gotten him the Oscar. Another great feature of this film is the cinematography-which DID get the Oscar. Couple this with the beautiful restoration work that was done for this DVD and you have a film that almost looks like it was made yeaterday-especially the outdoor shots! This is a very beautiful looking transfer! Even if you don't like John Wayne, or Westerns in general, this is still a worthy film for your dvd collection!
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