She Wore A Yellow Ribbon is probably not one of director John Ford’s finest films, but it’s among his most beloved. The second of the unofficial “Cavalry Trilogy” between Fort Apache and Rio Grande, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon was typical of the type of western—sentimental, energetic, and yearning—that filled movie theaters as the sun set on the 1940’s. John Wayne’s performance as Captain Nathan Brittles became a signature role for the actor. John Ford, already known for his ability to capture the look and feel of the west, is aided here by the cinematography of Winton Hoch, who won an Oscar for his work.
An officer of the Seventh Cavalry, Captain Nathan Brittles is set to retire in six days. It’s 1876. Just after Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn and reports of Native American uprising are everywhere. Brittles is asked by Major Allshard (George O’Brien), to escort Allshard’s wife and niece to a stagecoach pickup that will take them eastward and out of the war zone. While Allshard’s wife Abby (Mildred Natwick) is used to army life, but her unmarried niece, Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru), is a bit of a handful. The ladies plan to explore the west because in Miss Dandridge’s words, the pair “aren’t army’ enough to stay the winter.” Miss Dandridge also becomes the central figure in a romantic rivalry between Brittles’ junior officers, Lts. Cohill and Pennell (John Agar and Harry Carey, Jr.).
Brittles has serious reservations about ferrying the women, but his dedication to the job allows him to undertake the assignment with good humor. When his reluctance proves valid and his patrol faces an impending threat, Brittles is forced to take a longer, alternate route. While the detour allows him to deliver the women safely, he’s unable to help another patrol that’s attacked. Brittles finds himself conflicted by his decision to avoid trouble, thus sacrificing reinforcements that could have helped fellow soldiers. But then, these are the difficult decisions a leader must make.
While the effort to take Abby Allshard and her niece out of harm’s way provides the narrative structure for She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, it’s really a story of the special comradery between soldiers. These men face risk each day and must trust each other with their lives. Even when a couple of Brittles men punch each other, Ford stages it in a comedic like manner. It’s as if the two men are just letting off steam; when it was over they were brothers-in-arms again. John Wayne’s Nathan Brittles is the tough leader we expect him to be, but his conflict over certain decisions, a scene at the graveside of his wife and two daughters and when his soldiers give him a silver watch as retirement gift, give us a peak at the emotions Brittles keeps carefully guarded.
Photographed in the three-strip Technicolor process used from 1935 through 1953, the colors are brilliantly vivid. Thus, this 1080p presentation in the 137:1 aspect ratio id wonderful. Winton Hoch’s cinematography looks like it was shot this year and the image looks fabulous. Faces look normal and detail is impressive throughout. Warner Archive has done a top-notch job here.
The lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 provides clear and concise dialogue, as well as fidelity and dynamic range that is appropriate for this type of mix. The score by Richard Hageman sounds as dynamic as can be expected. There are no audio issues to speak of.
English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are included:
- John Ford Home Movies (SD, 4:08) Footage shot in the 1940’s while John Ford and John Wayne scouted production locations near Mazatlan, Mexico.
- Trailer (HD, 2:31)