Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1956. C.V. Whitney Pictures. Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, based on the novel by Alan Le May. Cinematography by Winton C. Hoch. Produced by Merian C. Cooper. Music by Max Steiner. Production Design by James Basevi, Frank Hotaling. Costume Design by Charles Arrico. Film Editing by Jack Murray.
A perfect Western, and a study in the dark side of humanity. John Wayne is excellent as an aging cowboy who is forced to examine his own prejudice when he sets out to find his long-lost niece (Natalie Wood), a girl who was kidnapped in infancy by Comanches after they killed her entire family. Wayne’s fellow search party members discover along the way that he might plan to kill the girl to save her from a “fate worse than death”. A searing indictment of American racism, this was one of John Ford’s first exploration of the negative aspects of Wild West mythology (which he continued to investigate in later films like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). Wood wears a bit too much glamour-girl makeup for a girl on the plains than is believable, but little else about this film seems dated. Jeffrey Hunter is great as Wayne’s traveling companion who has bear to the weight of the horrible realization about the star’s goals.