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She Wore A Yellow Ribbon is a 1949 Republic Pictures Western film, directed by John Ford, and starring John Wayne. The film is considered the second installment in Ford's so-called "Cavalry Trilogy," which also includes Fort Apache (1948) and Rio Grande (1950). It is the only color film of the trilogy.
The film takes place in 1876 during the Indian Wars, detailing the last mission of the retiring career cavalry captain, Nathan Brittles, who must neutralize the threat of the would-be Indian messiah Red Shirt (Noble Johnson), in which Brittles is aided by Sergeants Quincannon (Victor McGlaglen) and Tyree (Ben Johnson). Meanwhile, pretty Eastern tourist Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru), niece of the wife (Mildred Natwick) of the fort's commander, Major Allshard (George O'Brien), has been setting the younger officers of the fort by the heels, particularly Lieutenants Flint Cohill (John Agar) and Ross Pennell (Harry Carey, Jr.).
Set against the backdrop of Ford's favorite setting, Monument Valley, Utah, the film was deliberately designed to emulate the paintings of Western artist Frederic Remington. The 41-year-old Wayne's performance as the 60-year-old Captain Brittles impressed critics, and Patrick Wayne reported that this film remained his father's favorite of the many he had made.
Tropes Associated With This Film Include:
- American Civil War: Much play is made of Brittle's service in the Union Army, and of Tyree's service in the Confederate Army.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Sergeant Quincannon
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: John Wayne's Nathan Brittles to Victor McLaglan's Quincannon.
- Catch Phrase: "Never apologize; it's a sign of weakness"; "...in ten or twelve years."
- Did Not Do the Research: At one point, a Pony Express Rider refers to Custer's defeat; the Pony Express vanished after 1861, and the battle of Little Bighorn occurred in 1876.
- A Father to His Men: Describes Brittles' relationship to his command.
- Good Looking Privates: Olivia dresses herself in a cavalry tunic and forage cap, and provocatively wears yellow ribbons (symbolizing a sweetheart) in her hair to spur the rivalry between Flint and Ross.
- Grave Marking Scene: Captain Brittles regularly revisits the grave of his wife, thus enabling a series of Surrogate Soliloquies.
- Improbable Age: Averted. The 1870s cavalry unit depicted is officered primarily by 30 and 40 year old Lieutenants and Captains.
- Injun Country
- Musical Gag: The cavalry blacksmith is named Wagner; when he appears, the soundtrack plays the smithying Leitmotif from Der Ring des Nibelungen.
- Scenery Porn: The cinematographer, Winton Hoch, won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography in this movie.
- Somewhere an Equestrian Is Crying: Averted and Lampshaded, when Olivia Dandridge complains about having to walk instead of riding, saying she might as well be with the Infantry; Lt. Cohill tartly replies, "We soon would be, if we didn't ease these horses."
- Sound Off: An old cavalry song supplies the title.
- Surrogate Soliloquy: Captain Brittles uses the graveside variant.
- Title Drop: The traditional song which begins and ends the film contains the titles, both of the film itself, and of the trilogy as a whole. The "Cavalry! cavalry!" refrain in particular sounds like a signature for the trilogy.
- The Wild West