Saturday, June 2, 2007

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon; Western, USA, 1949; D: John Ford, S: John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen

Wild West, 1876. Captain Nathan Brittles is in his 60s and is just a few days from his retirement. He is in charge of a fort, defending it from Indian attacks after general Custer lost his battle. His wife and kids are dead and one of his old friends is Sgt. Quincanon. When his commander, Major Alshard, refuses his request to rescue Lt. Cohill, Brittles is assigned to escort Abby and her young niece Olivia to safety and guard them from Indian attacks. Days before his retirement, he decides to make peace with Chief Pony That Walks and the Indians, but without success. Still, with a help of a trick - by stealing away the Indian Pony's - he manages to defeat them and stop the war without a single dead man.

"She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" is hardly one of the best films from the famous director John Ford, but it's style, elegance and humor still give it enough reasons to enjoy it. The story is clumsy and chaotically structured, especially in the romantic parts that never seem like the sum of it's potentials, at moments even uninteresting, and the naive end doesn't serve the film justice. But even though it only seems like a film version of a history lesson, "Ribbon" is still intriguing - John Wayne plays his role of a 20 years older Captain Brittles very good and Victor McLaghlen as the always drunk Sgt. Quincanon is hilarious. In one scene, Quincanon is quickly, secretly drinking whiskey he hid in a vase, while at the same time talking with Brittles who can't see him because he is in another room, assuring him he "doesn't drink anymore". In another, while addressing the troops, Quincanon spots a sleeping dog and angrily asks: "Who owns this dog?" But then he gently strokes him an adds: "Nice dog!" And the sequence where 8 men can't arrest a drunk Quincanon because he is too strong for them seems like it fell directly from some slapstick comedy. The film has sharp details and is directed with a sure hand, but in the end it could have been so much more than just a good, old fashioned western.

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