She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, made in 1949, is the second of three movies directed by John Ford often known as the Cavalry Trilogy. The first, Fort Apache, stars John Wayne but features Henry Fonda with Shirley Temple as his daughter. The third movie, Rio Grande, features Wayne with Maureen O'Hara. The stories aren't connected, so watching them out of order isn't a problem; they are simply related in a thematic sense as they are about the U.S. Cavalry on the frontier.
SWaYR is one dear to my heart because of the kind of character the Duke plays. He gained about thirty pounds to portray a cavalry officer, Captain Nathan Brittles, nearing his final days of active duty and anticipating his retirement. Brittles, a Union Civil War veteran, is a fighter, but not a firebreathing Indian hater. Rather he is a keeper of memories, whether they are of battlefields long ago, or friends who've passed away. One example of this is the many visits he makes to his wife's gravesite on the post as he relates the day's news to her, whether it is the news of Custer's fall at Little Big Horn and the death of an old friend, Myles Keough, or that Miss Olivia Dandridge, the post's belle, reminds him of her.
|Captain Brittles bears the news of Custer's defeat during their evening chat.|
|Brittles questions Quincannon's sobriety-again.|
|The retirement gift. Brittles receives a silver watch from his troop on his final inspection|
There's definitely some dopey stuff too. The belief that the Southern Cheyenne and Kiowa would combine with Sioux, Apache and Northern Cheyenne on the southern plains is someone's hallucination. The love triangle between Dandridge, Lts. Pennell (Harry Carey, Jr.) and Cohill (John Agar) is just dumb and an excuse for some eye candy.
Nonetheless, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a solid movie with fine performances by Wayne and others and worth a look.