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Sunday, June 1, 2008

SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949)

This is probably the gentlest of the series of U.S. Calvary pics John Ford made after WWII. Compared to FORT APACHE from the year before, it's straightforward, peace loving and positive; and compared to the following year's chamber work, the ever undervalued WAGON MASTER, it's a bit too self-consciously painterly. But why choose between the series of Western masterpieces Ford made in this period? Grab 'em all. (Even the occasional misfire, like THREE GODFATHERS, have rapturous segments no one else could have managed.) This is the one where John Wayne is counting the days to retirement. Acting a man older than he was, he's a bit uncomfortable delivering his sentimental graveside soliloquies (reacting was his special forte), but still commanding & endearing as he ends his military career with a series of botched assignments only to redeem himself by stopping a needless war as he bows out. Ben Johnson, in his second Ford film, just about steals the show with his easy grace in the saddle. But everyone is in good spirits here. Even Ford, a man who could hold an imaginary grudge for a decade or two, felt relaxed enough to bring back old pal George O'Brien, his regular star from his prestigious late silent pics.

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