Wednesday, April 10, 2019

CONSENSUS #78. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

SYNOPSIS: A soon to retire trooper (John Wayne) has an action-packed last few weeks as the Southern Cheyenne have left their reservation and are on the war path. Throw in a love triangle involving the commanding officer's daughter and two wooing troopers and we have one of John Ford's iconic Westerns.

BACK-STORY: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a western/war movie released in 1949. It was the second of John Fords cavalry trilogy and the only one in color. The other two were Fort Apache and Rio Grande. All three starred John Wayne. The movie was set in Monument Valley. Ford used the paintings of Frederick Remington for inspiration and ideas. The title is a song associated with the U.S. Cavalry and alludes to the cavalryman giving his love a yellow ribbon. One of the stars is the horse Steel ridden by Ben Johnson. This horse was popular with western stars. The movie was awarded the Oscar for Best Color Cinematography to Winton Hoch. The film was a big hit.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb, TCM
1.  It was the second in John Ford’s cavalry trilogy coming between “Fort Apache” and “Rio Grande”.
2.  Cinematographer Winton Hoch based some of the scenes on sculptures and paintings by Frederic Remington.  This means the film links the two men most responsible for our image of the West – John Ford and Frederic Remington.  Hoch won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color.  Part of the reason for his win is the iconic thunder storm scene.  Supposedly, Hoch was shutting down filming when the storm appeared on the horizon.  Ford demanded he continue shooting despite Hoch claiming the lighting was not sufficient and mentioning the threat of lightning.  Hoch filed a complaint with the American Society of Cinematographers.
3.  Ford did not want John Wayne because he was uncomfortable with Wayne playing a character twenty years older.  Wayne was 41 at the time.  Ford changed his mind after seeing Wayne in “Red River”, remarking that the SOB could actually act.
4.  Wayne felt it was one of his favorite roles and thought he should have been nominated for Brittles instead of Stryker in “Sands  of Iwo Jima”.  He was bitter due to the critics not praising him for expanding his range and claimed that the result caused him to never stretch again.  “The Searchers” seems to refute this.
5.  Ben Johnson rode the famous horse “Steel”.  “Steel” had a lot of charisma, but was easy to ride.  The horse made a lot of money for Johnson’s father-in-law who ran a horse-renting business.  If you wanted to use “Steel”, you had to rent all the other horses from him.  “Steel” had his own double for galloping scenes.  He was ridden by Wayne in “Tall in the Saddle”, Gregory Peck in “Yellow Sky”, and Randolph Scott in “The Tall T”.

Belle and Blade  =  N/A
Brassey’s              =  4.0
Video Hound       =  3.8
War Movies         =  N/A
Military History  =  #55
Channel 4             =  not on list
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no

OPINION:  She Wore Yellow Ribbon is an entertaining Western, but it is not a war movie and does not belong on this list. I have a problem with taking a movie that is firmly in one genre and then putting it on a list of great movies in another genre. There are few Westerns that I feel can clearly be considered war movies and Westerns. A rare example of this hybrid would be Son of the Morning Star which is specifically and accurately about a battle in the Indian Wars (the Battle of Little Big Horn).


  1. Even though he has recently generated considerable controversy recently due to alleged racism he said in a 1971 Playboy magazine interview, I still love Wayne as an actor. My feeling is that once an artist puts their work into the world, if it moves us, or we find meaning it in, we take ownership of it. How we interpret a work of art, or a piece of music, or a film, a book, or any creative statement - is unique to each of us. It is our individual experience in life that shapes how we connect to art, and that experience cannot be “cancelled.” Nor should it be. I don’t succumb to the thought police. I don’t allow my enjoyment of something I find meaningful to be censored by someone trying to dictate how I should think or feel.

    1. I feel the same way about Jane Fonda movies. How about you?

  2. I guess we need another genre: movies about the military that don't include fighting/battles. A Soldiers Story is set during WW2 but has no fighting. It's a very good movie, but not a war movie. I'm sure there are others. A Few Good Men, An Officer and a Gentleman (which is more soap opera than military movie)...

    1. The question is: should there be a subgenre of war movies called "military movies"? I tend to agree with you about the movies you mention. I would put them in the drama genre.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.