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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 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 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 September 4, 2002
John Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy" presents some of the finest western scenes ever made. I believe this to be the best of the three, although I'm sure to hear from folks who differ. Be that as it may, this is a beautifully made disc. On the big screen ( a must), it is the scenery that is a major factor, because the film is so vivid. I saw the "Trilogy" in the theatre when released, and I believe that the DVD viewer will see the film better realized on the digital screen than moviegoers saw in 1959. Another opinion that many will differ with is that this is John Wayne's best performance; his role as Captain Nathan Briddles could not be better done. John Ford had a cadre of actors that appeared regularly in his films, but Victor McLaglin, Ben Johnson and Arthur Shields do good work in their respective parts. Johnson, a former rodeo rider, is a superb horseman, and watch Shields' stagecraft when his character operates on a wounded trooper. It's fantastic attention to the details of the scene. Joanne Dru was a fifties actress, and the love interest is a bit dated, but it is the cinematography that is the winner here. Some of the scenes, one involving a thunderstorm, and another showing a stunning sunset are still amazing, especially since no computer graphics are involved. The attention to detail that makes or breaks historical film are consistantly well done here, as exemplified in the correctness of the cavalry scenes. Back in 1959, there were people around who knew what horse soldiering was, and it is painstakingly recreated here. Please don't pass this one up - it's a wonderful film.
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on June 13, 2002
While many of John Ford's movies are classics, I think that "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" does often get downplayed, but it really is an excellent movie. The colors are lush, and quite crisp on this DVD (more so than in the VHS of this film) and the cinematography is gorgeous. But the acting is also top-knotch. John Wayne does wonderful as a ramrod-straight but aging cavalry officer. Though Wayne was probably at a physical peak at the time the film was made, he moves like an older man with aches and pains, and carries it off nicely. His interactions with the other actors are also good, and reflect well the tight-knit nature of the post-Civil War military. There's humor, there's drama, and in the end, the film is just very enjoyable. The extra features on the DVD are okay; the "John Ford Home Movies" only show Ford and Wayne enjoying drinks somewhere in Mexico, and everything else is just text, but the clarity of the film and the gorgeous colors on the DVD make this a must-have.
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on November 11, 2003
Capt. Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) is near retirement and looks at it with an unsure and heavy heart. After years in the U.S. Cavalry it is all he knows and is not sure what will become of him when he leaves it. Brittles knows that the Army and life will go on, but what will his role in life be, since he lost his wife years before. This is the second and best film in the John Ford cavalry trilogy. As it Brittles is not very keen on handing over command to younger soldiers who are yet to prove themself in leading other men and in combat. For all it's worth he has little to no say about what will happen to those who take over and what will become of the indian tribe that he has worked with and delt with for so long. Victor McLaglen is a great supporter in the film as he also faces retirement and enjoys his whiskey and fights along with the other men. A story about trust and service along with changing times, it features one of Wayne's best performances. An Oscar winner for best color cinematography (Winton C. Hoch) that features Monument Valley, this is a film to see as it is a western and war film wraped into one. It is simple yet not boring and it get's to the point when needed. Grade: B+
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on April 28, 2003
"She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" is one of those glorious westerns, luminously photographed by director, John Ford. It stars, John Wayne, as a widower living at a military outpost with the cavalry and features some of the most gorgeously photographed exteriors ever captured on film. Monument Valley becomes a place of quiet, stoic beauty and the duke never gave a more impressive performance than he does here.
My hat off to the good people at Warner Home Video. This is a truly amazing looking DVD and one that should definitely be on every film buffs wish list to own. Colors are fully saturated, well balanced and incredibly life like. Contrast levels are on pitch as are black levels. There is a hint of edge enhancement and pixelization but really - it's just a hint. Chips, scratches and imperfections inherant in the original camera negative are kept to a bare, bare minimum. The audio is mono, as originally presented, but extremely well balanced, with low to non-existant background hiss in most scenes. No extras: a shame! One craves a documentary on either the making-of this movie or John Ford himself. We get neither. Still, it's hard to fault such a near pristine looking transfer.
BOTTOM LINE: Get this one before it goes out of print!
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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.
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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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