John Ford is probably the most celebrated western film director of all time. He won four Oscars as best director, though he didn’t receive one for my favorite of his westerns, THE SEARCHERS starring John Wayne.
Never one to repeat himself, he was hesitant to direct this film which covered the same themes as The Searchers: returning white captives from Indian control. It’s said he did it for the money($225,000 and ten percent of the profits). His relationship with Stewart was less than cordial. The actor insisted on wearing a beloved cowboy hat that he’d worn in seven previous westerns and Ford hated the hat. Stewart won that battle, but lost the next time they worked together(the second of three pictures) when he wore no hat at all in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Stewart plays small town Marshal Guthrie McCabe, a man who’s quite mercenary and has his own little empire going. A hundred a month and ten percent of the business profits of the woman, Belle Aragon(Annelle Hayes), who owns most of the town and has designs on McCabe.
Richard Widmark is First Lt. Jim Gary, the cavalryman who’s a friend to McCabe. He’s assigned to bring McCabe to the fort by Major Frazer(John McIntire) for a proposition.
White families who’s children had been take by the Comanche over the years were demanding the army get the back. The army couldn’t go in without breaking the tenuous treaty, so the idea was to send McCabe who’d had dealings with Chief Quanah Parker(Henry Brandon) before. Mccabe wasn’t happy. He was to get Lieutenant’s pay for the job, eighty dollars a month.
He goes about it from a different angle, interviewing the white families and extracting what he could get out of them, which doesn’t set well with the Major or his friend Gary. McCabe doesn’t care. Shirley Jones is Marty Purcell there with her father. Her little brother had been taken when he was five, twelve years before.
In one moment of drunken rage, McCabe tell them exactly what to expect, especially Marty’s brother. He would be a full out Comanche now, English forgotten, name forgotten, family forgotten.
Jim Gary gets ordered to accompany McCabe on his mission. And since soldiers were forbidden, he was suddenly a deserter and should he not return, the record would stay that way.
The two men make it to the village and find whites there. Two refuse to leave: a sixteen year old taken when she was nine and with two children and an older woman who didn’t want her pious husband and two sons to know she was still alive.
Two were returned with them: a young boy about seventeen, Running Wolf(David Kent) who fit two descriptions of boys taken and had to be tied to his horse and an Hispanic woman, Elena de la Madnaga(Linda Cristal), the wife of Stone Calf(Woody Strode).
Neither captive does well in the white world. The boy is shunned by one family, costing McCabe a thousand dollars, and the other couple, the McCandlesses, William(Cliff Lyons) and Mary(Jeanette Nolan), take him. The father knows he’s not their boy, but Mary had slid her mental faculties since that long ago abduction and he wanted to give her some peace. All she could se was her little boy, not the Comanche warrior before her, and it didn’t end well.
The boy was really Marty’s brother, a fact revealed at the bad end when he heard a music box he’d loved as a five year old and Marty had kept as a remembrance ever since.
Elena was looked at as something horrible by the “good” white women at the fort and McCabe gets his chance to tell the lot of them off at a dance one night when they ask embarrassing questions and force their husbands not to dance with her. You know how it ends. can’t have a film without a little romance.
TWO RODE TOGETHER was based on the novel Comanche Captives by Will Cook.
Liked this one a lot.
A number of other actors, familiar faces, appeared in this one. Andy Devine plays a sargeant. Harry Carey, Jr. and Ken Curtis(pre Festus) paly a pair of drunken brothers whose mother refused to leave the Comanche camp and preferred to be thought dead.