MOVIE REVIEWS

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

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8/10 NR 01 hr 43 min
Wikipedia

October 22, 1949

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By John Chard June 19, 2017

Wayne matures as the theme befits the role.

The second instalment of the acclaimed John Ford cavalry trilogy had a lot to live up to after Fort Apache (1948). So it may not be too controversial to state that "Yellow Ribbon" doesn't quite achieve the potential promise that Fort Apache's foundation building provided. However, here is still a mighty western of many joys.

The lead theme here is the passing of time, of time and love lost, lest we forget indeed. These themes give the film a strong emotional heartbeat to work from, even if there is not much in the way of adrenalin pumping. Accepting it as an affecting character piece is something of a requisite if you want to get the most out of it, and of course the gifted art of film making is very much on the film's side here as well.

John Wayne gives a top notch performance in what is obviously one of the first out and out serious roles that Ford gave him. His ageing Captain Nathan Brittles requires him to put in a very fallible human type performance, something that he achieves in spades. He's a believable leader who is ruing the calling of time on his career in the service. Yet even Wayne's affecting turn is trumped by some of the the most gorgeous cinematography you could wish to see from the 1940s.

Winton Hoch clashed with Ford on the shoot about various perfections (both parties equally to blame of course), but the final result is incredible. Witness a scene as Brittles visits his dead wife's grave, the backdrop is all purple and red, a storm is imminent, metaphorically and in reality. Has shooting in the desert ever been so colourfully lush?

The film leaves an indelible mark on the conscious for its art and performances (Joanne Dru, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen & Harry Carey Jr bring their "A" game), but as a story it just about gets by because John Ford knows his onions and structures it with precision and a genuine love of the genre and material to hand. 8/10

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