Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week 100: Sergeant Rutledge
John Ford did not make a “Cavalry Trilogy” as if often professed; he made a Cavalry Quartet. It is odd that this film is not included in the discussion of those three others and I would rank it third in the list, below Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon but far superior to Rio Grande. It is very much a Cavalry picture, taking place as much out in the field as it does in the court room.
Both Strode and Hunter are great as the leads though it’s a true symbol of the times that Strode, playing the titular character, did not get top billing or even close! His performance as Rutledge is both strong and vulnerable. Hunter is playing the honorable man, a role Jimmy Stewart might have taken. It’s nice to see him as a more mature character in comparison to his Searchers role for Ford.
The movie is clumsy at times but what Ford picture isn’t? It’s the great moments of his movies that stand the test of time, that overshadow his faults. It is quite a testament against racism. I used images of Strode to encourage my lead actor Cedric Burnside for Texas Red and I sure wish I could show this film and mine as a double feature some day.
Seen on the Criterion Channel.