Movies My Dad Likes For Christmas: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon [1949]

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon Theatrical Poster

Now for a western so why not play the classic John Ford/John Wayne combo of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. It’s pure Cowboy vs Indian where the cowboys are the US Cavalry and the Indians a combination of every tribe imaginable. The heroes are obviously those boys in blue with the yellow scarves and, when they’re not answering the call of the bugle, the troopers break out in a rendition ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’, although they couldn’t hold a candle to a Welsh male choir. Wayne’s character is Captain Nathan Brittles a life long soldier who is second in command at Fort Starke and coming up for retirement. Having to play a character more than twenty year older than himself really brought out the actor’s true talent.

After the demise of Custer and his 7th Cavalry, Brittles is sent out with his troop on his final mission to find and round up some indian tribes that have broken out of the reservation looking for trouble. To make life even more difficult he has to take along the camp commandant’s wife and her niece Olivia and see them safely on the stagecoach east. Olivia wears a yellow ribbon in her hair to indicate she’s sweet on somebody in the troop. There are only two contenders for her affections, 2nd Lieutenant Pennell and Lieutenant Cohill. As she is always arguing with the latter, he must be the lucky man.

Throughout the patrol Ford tries to demonstrate that the troop is like a family but even stronger with every man ready to take a bullet for his neighbour and then still volunteer for the most hazard of tasks. One suspects the reality was very different. Always there eager to ride into hell is Sergeant Tyree who only knows one speed on his horse and that’s faster. It’s just as well Tyree was played by Ben Johnson; everyman’s favourite cowpoke; who used

to double for John Wayne and was a rodeo cowboy before his film career. The patrol scenes take part in Monument Valley so commonly used in Western movies but the sandstone buttes are always worthy of another look.

Out numbered by hostile Indians and with the stagecoach station burnt down Brittles leads his column back to the fort with their tails between their legs, leaving Cohill and a dozen troopers behind to as rear guard. By the time Cohill is relieved, Indians from many tribes have joined forces and with rifles taken from a gunrunner, pose a real threat to the entire territory. Without horses however they can’t go on the warpath so Brittles leads the troopers in stampeding the Indians’ entire herd. The hostiles have no choice but to walk back to the reservation. Having now past his official sell-by date Brittles accepts the post of Chief Scout and stays with his beloved cavalry.


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