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on June 6, 2002
Joanne Dru teams with The DUKE again in this Technicolor marvel (after appearing together in "Red River" the year before). In this one, Dru plays a young romantic hopeful for both John Agar and Harry Carey, Jr.
Monument Valley never looked better. The stormclouds are stunning, even if the fake lightning is not. And the sunsets! Only Technicolor can capture the colors with such brilliance!
While I prefer "Rio Grande" and the lamentably-not-on-DVD-yet "Fort Apache", "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" plays more as a quiet homage to the cavalry than the actionfests of the other two films. Not that this film is sparse on action! However, the focus here is most definitely on the honor and wisdom of the old guard.
As usual, Ford has many subtle threads woven in to the plot of the film that enhance the story with backstories that are only hinted at. The most notable of these is the former Confederate soldiers, now part of the U.S. Cavalry. Their honor is intact, and they are still true to their ideals, despite wearing the uniform of the Yankee. There is, we know, much more to their story, but we see just what we need to. Any more, and the real story would get lost, the focus moved to the wrong place. How many modern directors make the mistake of letting this happen again and again and again? Too many, for sure.
Some people have complained that John Wanye was a lousy actor, which I've always chalked up to a refusal to recognize talent in a celebrity simply through differences in personal taste. Like "The Searchers", "Red River", "The Horse Soldiers" and "The Sands of Iwo Jima" (also starring the late John Agar), there are solid moments in this film when DUKE delivers. Just look as he "gives his report" to his wife and children, when he writes out his protest to his commanding officer, and again, when he gets the memento of the silver watch from his troopers. The viewer's taste notwithstanding, it cannot be denied that DUKE could act.
The usual excellent Ford supporting players abound. Ben Johnson, Arthur Shields, Harry Carey Jr., and of course, the lovable Victor McLaglen (yet again playing a man named Quincannon), are all on hand. Paul Fix has a cameo as a gun-runner.
Two real-life Indian chiefs also appear. Chief John Big Tree appeared in several westerns (including "The Big Trail" and "Stagecoach", both with The DUKE), and is famous for being the original model for artist James Fraser when he crafted the indian head nickel. Chief Sky Eagle cameos in his only film appearance.
A touching and poignant western, it is a must see for fans of Ford, The DUKE, The U.S. Calvalry, or the Old West.
And, incidentally, this film was not shot in a widescreen format. It was shot in a 35mm, spherical process, with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. In other words, it will show about the correct size when displayed on your standard TV screen.
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on February 4, 1999
This is a glorious and much neglected Western. Whilst 'The Searchers' receives the most acclaim helped by Martin Scorsese's public love, an obviously superior budget and the fascinating ambiguities of it's major character, I believe that 'Yellow Ribbon'is the definitive Ford Western. It is also Wayne's finest performance, as the retiring army Captain Brittles. There is a wonderful poignancy to his key scenes plus he is very funny when it's called for. I always feel a sense of ridiculous guilt in praising Wayne due to his personal right-wing gung-ho green-beret supra-patriotism. But you have to get past this to appreciate his very considerable acting talent. He had a much broader range than he is generally given credit for (by critics at least - the public always loved him). It is a shame that here he is saddled with such an appalling actress as Joanne Dru who just fails to convince with every gesture and utterance. Neither does Harry Carey Jr perform much better, bless him.
However, the movie generally scores for horse riding action scenes, fabulous cinematography, brilliant compositions, humour and good old fashioned brawling scenes with the stupendous Victor McGlagan.
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on April 1, 2013
The two most important elements that make She Wore A Yellow Ribbon a great production are John Wayne and Monument Valley. John Ford, the producer, couldn't get enough of either and in the film they both take up a lot of movie reel space. If you like John Wayne, you will certainly be pleased with his acting in his leading role as a Cavalry Captain on the early west frontier. The same can be said for Monument Valley once you have been there, The classic panoramas of the magnificent vista's with their high desert grandeur, are like watching a travelogue of north-eastern Arizona. Joanne Dru and the other supporting actors are well cast in their
various parts in bringing to the screen this compelling story of hardship, dedication and love in the old west.
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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 July 2, 2001
John Wayne probably gives the finest performance I've seen him give so far in this story of a Calvary officer, just days before his retirement, who goes on one last assignment. He's accompanied by fellow officer Victor McLaglen who's very funny in a broad way, as well as two stiffly acted young lovers, a subplot that doesn't take too much away from the overall film (fortunately). Wayne has to rely a lot less on heroics in this performance, and instead concentrate on characterization, which he does with much success. He brings depth and a bittersweet quality to his character in a way that might surprise some. With a beautifully photographed backdrop framing each scene, this John Ford feature is sure to please fans of Wayne and Westerns alike.
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on February 26, 2000
I first saw this movie when I was 14, and I've probably seen it at least 100 times. It's the kind of movie you can put down for a few months and when you pick it up again, it still has a certain freshness to it, there's something you didn't notice before. Maybe it's something in Wayne's performance, or some little detail you didn't notice before. The performances are without exception flawless, from Ben Johnson to Victor McLaglen. Many people think The Searchers is Ford's greatest movie, and maybe it is. But I'd rather take SWAYR with me on a desert island!This is a movie you really appreciate as you get older.
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on March 9, 2004
This is the second and ,as many have said, best in John Ford's famed cavalry trilogy. I go further in claiming for it high status in the genre of western films, it is one of the finest. Wayne wears makeup that ages him 20 years and his acting performance transforms him into that older man Captain Nathan Brittles, soon to be retired from the U. S. Cavalry. Captain Brittles talking to his late wife at her grave ,while he waters the plants he has placed there, with Monument valley in the background is one of the more moving scenes. This and "The Searchers" are Wayne's finest acting performances.
"She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" won an academy award for it's color cinematography and it was well deserved. This is one beautiful film. Ford shot many of his westerns in Monument valley, this is his definitive Monument valley western, you really see alot of the landscape and clouds and it's glorious. The special features on this dvd has a short home movie of Ford and Wayne flying down to Mexico and hanging out back in the forties.
Own this one because it's one of those rare films you can, and will want to, watch over and over.
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