John Wayne, in his second of three cavalry movies, plays Captain Nathan Brittles, a Cavalryman who is nearing retirement and takes one final mission in the last week of his career.
Two things stand out in this movie: Wayne’s ability to play a much older character and the cinematography in showing the various landscapes in color.
John Wayne was 33 at the time this movie was filmed, however, he is playing a man many years further along in life. I enjoyed the conflict this character has with leading his troops, succeeding in missions, but knowing the day was drawing near where he would have to move on to something else. Brittles was a friend of George Custer, who had recently been killed in the Battle of Little Bighorn. This kind of old guard passing on to the next generation shows through as Brittles asks to stay on in more of a consulting role. His commanding officer quickly retorts that if the next man who will lead the troops gives an order, the men will still look to him.
From the 501 must-see movies book, regarding Wayne’s portrayal of a much older man. “There is a moving moment when he wishes to read the inscription on a watch his troops have given him as a farewell gift and he shyly reaches for a pair of reading spectacles.”
This was the only John Wayne cavalry film to have color. The only Academy Award this movie was nominated for was Cinematography, Color. It won, and understandably so. There is one particular scene where the cavalrymen are stampeding, and the camera follows one particular cover wagon as it attempts to adapt to the terrain. I found myself hoping and anticipating it falling over, but that did not happen. I wonder how many takes it took to get it right though.
My overall opinion of this film is that it does good with the subject material and John Wayne does more than enough to carry the movie. I don’t imagine I’ll watch this one again, but as with many movies I’ve seen as part of this project, I am glad I’ve watched it.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5