She Wore a Yellow Ribbon After Custer and the 7th Cavalry are wiped out by Indians, everyone expects the worst. Capt. Nathan Brittles is ordered out on patrol but he’s also required to take along Abby Allshard, wife of the Fort’s commanding officer, and her niece, the pretty Olivia Dandridge, who are being evacuated for their own safety. Brittles is only a few days away from retirement and Olivia has caught the eye of two of the young officers in the Company, Lt. Flint Cohill and 2nd Lt. Ross Pennell. She’s taken to wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair, a sign that she has a beau in the Cavalry, but refuses to say for whom she is wearing it.
John Wayne, Cinematography, Both Brilliant
Anyone who thinks John Wayne can’t act should see this movie and eat crow. A young man then, he played a cavalry officer on the verge of retirement. Watch his eyes (the sign of a great actor). It’s a wonder he wasn’t even nominated for the Academy Award for this role, which few in Hollywood could pull off convincingly.
It’s also a John Wayne western the woman in your life will probably like. Wayne talks tenderly at the grave of his wife, and even has a moment of sucking back weeping when his men show their fondness for him.
This bittersweet, elegaic film about a retiring officer on his last mission doesn’t have lots of action in it (Ford seems to have thrown in a fistfight with McLaglin just because that actor had little to do, and though it’s corny, it has a wonderful beginning).
Apart from Wayne, the reason to watch this is the cinematography. Monument valley, host to myriad westerns, never looked better. They even captured a marvelous thunderstorm in the background, in these days before special effects (the cinematographer, who did snatch an Oscar, originally protested the work, but Ford made him film the scene and they ended up with one of the most striking natural scenes ever).
For years people didn’t think Wayne could act. Some, like me, grew up on his later, post-“True Grit” movies, when he did tend to walk through his parts, more icon than actor. He didn’t have great finesse with his lines (neither does a fine actor of today, Harrison Ford), but his roles rarely called for the nicety of a Jeremy Irons. In his better movies, Wayne proves he’s more than just a movie star. This is his finest hour, and may be John Ford’s.