Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Two Rode Together

Two Rode Together (1961)
Dir. John Ford
Starring: James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Shirley Jones
Marshal Guthrie MacCabe is happy just staying in his town, profiting off the locals, until the army pressures him into helping to free some captives from the Comanche. Lieutenant Jim Gary is assigned the task of helping McCabe bargain with the Indians.


On first look, Two Rode Together treads a lot of the same ground that the far superior The Searchers does, but to me Two Rode Together is interesting because how different it is from the earlier film. Two Rode Together starts off with more humor and playfulness than The Searchers, only to end on a much bleaker note in how the return to civilization is for the former captives. The scenes with Running Wolf after he has been returned to civilization have a sense of tragedy to them. In these scenes, he acts like a scared animal, taken away from the home that he knows, and when he reacts with violence, it’s not surprising and the ensuing attack by an angry mob ends his storyline with the most predictable, and logical, conclusion. The other captive that is brought back is a Mexican named Elena, who was taken as a bride by an Indian. After returning to civilization, she is distrusted by the townspeople, and their treatment of Elena feels very natural, and based on human nature. They treat her in the same manner that they would a sideshow attraction, asking nosy questions and having a very condescending attitude towards her. She gives a speech about what she went through with the Comanches that is a high point of the film, stating that the Comanche’s treatment of her while bad as better than that of the “civilized” people. These scenes give Two Rode Together a more realistic feeling than the “we’re all happy now” optimistic ending of The Searchers. 

The best thing about the film are the scenes between James Stewart and Richard Widmark. Their scenes bantering at the beginning of the film give the opening a fun and playful vibe due to the great chemistry that the two have. One of the films biggest problems is that it introduces McCabe as a flawed character but doesn’t take the time to explore his flaws (this is something that Stewart had also complained about). Shirley Jones is serviceable in her role, but the role is basically falling for Widmark and being sad about her kidnapped brother. Andy Devine shows up in a comedic supporting role, and Henry Brandon adds to The Searchers comparisons by playing the Comanche chief, while it is a different character but he is doing the same thing he did in the earlier film. Woody Stroode appears in the film long enough for you to say “hey it’s Woody Strode”, so he’s basically wasted. 

John Ford admitted to only making this movie for money, and that after rewriting the script that it was “still crap”. He was very dismissive of all of his post 1957 films, and he apparently lost interest in the film during production when Ward Bond died. The movie has some pacing issues, and it coasts by on the performances of the two leads.  It’s a minor Ford film, but it’s still better than a lot of other films.

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