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She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Argosy Pictures
Screenplay by
Based on The Big Hunt
1947 story in The Saturday Evening Post
War Party
1948 in The Saturday Evening Post 
by James Warner Bellah[1]
Narrated by Irving Pichel[2]
Music by Richard Hageman
Cinematography Winton Hoch
Edited by Jack Murray
Argosy Pictures
Distributed by RKO
Release dates
  • July 26, 1949 (1949-07-26) (Premiere-Kansas City, KS)[3]
  • October 22, 1949 (1949-10-22) (US)[3]
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a 1949 Technicolor Western film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. The Academy Award winning film was the second of Ford's Cavalry trilogy films (the other two being Fort Apache (1948) and Rio Grande (1950)). With a budget of $1.6 million, the film was one of the most expensive Westerns made up to that time. It was a major hit for RKO. The film takes its name from "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", a popular US military song that is used to keep marching cadence.

The film was shot on location in Monument Valley utilizing large areas of the Navajo reservation along the Arizona-Utah state border. Ford and cinematographer Winton Hoch based much of the film's imagery on the paintings and sculptures of Frederic Remington. The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1950. It was also nominated by the Writers Guild of America as 1950's Best Written American Western; the award was won by Yellow Sky.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Casting 3.1
    • Filming 3.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The Post Headquarters building, where Capt. Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) was quartered in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, is located at Goulding's Trading Post near Monument Valley.

On the verge of his retirement at Fort Starke, a one-troop cavalry post, aging Little Big Horn.

Brittles' task is complicated by being forced at the same time to deliver his commanding officer's wife and niece, Abby Allshard (Mildred Natwick) and Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru), to an eastbound stage and by the need to avoid a new Indian war. His troop officers, 1st Lt. Flint Cohill (John Agar) and 2nd Lt. Ross Pennell (Harry Carey, Jr.), meanwhile vie for the affections of Miss Dandridge while uneasily anticipating the retirement of their captain and mentor.

Assisting him with his mission is Capt. Brittles' chief scout, Sgt. Tyree (Chief John Big Tree). When that too fails, he devises a risky stratagem to avoid a bloody war by stampeding the Indians' horses out of their camp, forcing the renegades to return to their reservation.

The movie ends with Brittles being recalled to duty as chief of scouts with the rank of lt. colonel and Miss Dandridge and Lt. Cohill becoming engaged.


Director John Ford's older brother Francis appears in only one scene as Connolly, the barman. Ford kept Francis on wages "for eight weeks even through Francis could have completed his scenes in less than a week."[4] Other uncredited cast members include: Harry Woods as Karl Rynders, the sutler, Cliff Lyons as Trooper Cliff, Mickey Simpson as Wagner, the blacksmith, Fred Libby as Corporal Kumrein, and Rudy Bowman as Private Smith.[5] Among Rynders' associates is veteran character actor Paul Fix in a small uncredited role.[6]



Director Ford initially was uncertain who to cast in the lead role. However, he knew that he did not want John Wayne for the part—considering, among other factors, that Wayne would be playing a character over twenty years older than he was at the time. Reportedly, Wayne's 1948 performance in Red River changed Ford's mind, causing him to exclaim, "I didn’t know the big son of a bitch could act!"[7] Ford realized Wayne had grown considerably as an actor, and was now capable of playing the character he envisaged for this film. When shooting was completed, Ford presented Wayne with a cake with the message, "You're an actor now."[8] The role also became one of Wayne's favorite performances.[8]


The cast and crew lived in relatively primitive conditions in Monument Valley. Most slept in dirt-floor cabins that only had communal cold-water drum showers. The film was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

Although the film's cinematographer, Winton Hoch, won an Academy Award for his work, filming was not a smooth creative process because of conflicts with Ford. Ironically one of the most iconic scenes from the film was created during a dispute. As a line of cavalry rode through the desert, a real thunderstorm grew on the horizon. Hoch began to pack up the cameras as the weather worsened only for Ford to order him to keep shooting. Hoch argued that there was not enough natural light for the scene and, more importantly, the cameras could become potential lightning rods if the storm swept over them. Ford ignored Hoch's complaints; completing the scene as the thunderstorm rolled in, soaking the cast and crew. Hoch later had filed a letter of complaint against Ford with his trade union over the filming of this scene.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon".  
  4. ^ Bar, Charles (July 2010). "Irish Brother Feeney: Francis Ford in John Ford’s films".  
  5. ^ Darby, William (1996). John Ford's Westerns: A Thematic Analysis, with a Filmography.  
  6. ^ Darby, William (1996). John Ford's Westerns: A Thematic Analysis, with a Filmography.  
  7. ^ retrieved 2008-09-21.
  8. ^ a b Davis, Ronald L. (2001). Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 140–141. 0806133295. 

External links

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