“I’m not asking your opinion, Captain York. When you command this regiment — and you probably will — command it!”
Lieutenant Thursday (Henry Fonda) is sent to a remote outpost in the west, where he attempts to impose strict military discipline on a troop of cavalrymen. Meanwhile, his teenage daughter (Shirley Temple) struggles to adjust to life outside the city, while Captain York (John Wayne) tries to maintain peace with Cochise (Miguel Inclan), leader of the local Apaches.
Response to Peary’s Review:
John Ford’s classic western (the first in his “cavalry trilogy”, followed by She Wore a Yellow Ribbon in 1949 and Rio Grande in 1950) is well-acted, beautifully photographed (by cinematographer Archie Stout), and deals sensitively with difficult issues. Ford effectively shows the tensions — and fatal mistakes — that can occur when seasoned veterans such as Wayne’s Captain York are forced to follow the ill-advised orders of proud yet clueless leaders (who are later lauded as heroes). As Peary notes, “Ford detractors won’t like his sentiment, Irish humor, chaste romance, and musical interludes, but if you’re a Ford fan you’ll love it all and be inexplicably choked up.” Interestingly, this is a rare early western where the audience is meant to feel sympathy for Indians, rather than viewing them as automatic enemies. Captain York’s respectful liaison with Cochise hints at the alternate history that could have emerged in America, if only we had taken more time and care when interacting with its original settlers.
- Shirley Temple in her best “adult” role
- Henry Fonda playing against type as a surprisingly unsympathetic leader
- John Wayne as the intelligent, diplomatic Captain York
Yes. As the first in John Ford’s famed “cavalry trilogy”, this movie is required viewing for any film fanatic. Peary nominates it for an Alternate Oscar as one of the best pictures of the year.