Review: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)


My girl doesn’t wear any sort of ribbon!

Screenplay By: Frank S. Nugent & Laurence Stallings
Directed By: John Ford

Upon completing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon I spent a good deal of time tussling within my head over what I thought of the movie. There were elements that I absolutely loved, but then there were elements I loathed completely. It’s because of how divergent the movie was in both regards that my take ended up somewhere in the middle. I can’t view it as the Western classic that so many other people do, but I won’t label it as a bad movie either. The middle ground was the one clear theme in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon so it is fitting that I take that stance on the movie.

Themes and the application of said themes were the major problem I had with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. The movie seems to want to make two points that are at direct opposites with each other. At some point youth must take over and lead the way while old timers ride off into the sunset. But, at the same time it imparts the idea that youth cannot be trusted and will lead the world into great follies. The actors don’t help this cause much, because in a scene where the narrative is trying to extol the terribleness of youth it is an old man who guides the arrow. The message behind She Wore a Yellow Ribbon never takes concrete form at any point and it is because of that, as well as the standard cliché Cavalry are good, Indians are bad scenes, that I could never fully get behind She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

However, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon does look beautiful. The cinematography is amazing to see, the landscapes come alive visually. The attention to detail as far as the routine nature of being a Cavalry man was also handled in deft fashion. And, it’s John Wayne in a Western, I’m always a sucker for that set up on some level. There was quite a bit of good in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, just enough to match up with the parts I didn’t care for.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is not one of John Ford’s best, it is in every way a middle of the road picture. Luckily the good parts were at least able to balance out the uneven parts and leave a borderline good movie. Western junkies will no doubt love She Wore a Yellow Ribbon like any classic Western, but for other movie goers it is a film I would think twice about before checking out.



Bill Thompson

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