Two Rode Together

James Stewart stars as a cynical marshal hired to rescue prisoners captured by Comanche in this dark western from John Ford

Film Review by Tom Grieve | 03 Apr 2017
Film title: Two Rode Together
Director: John Ford
Starring: James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Shirley Jones, Linda Cristal, Andy Devine
Release date: 13 Mar
Certificate: U

We meet Marshal Guthrie McCabe (an against-type James Stewart) sat feet up, rocking back on his chair on the front porch of a bar-casino where he scares off a couple of troublesome-looking gamblers with the mere utterance of his name. It's a sequence and image that recalls that of Henry Fonda’s Wyatt Earp in director John Ford’s earlier western My Darling Clementine – but where Earp's posture reflected a man relaxed in his basic honesty, McCabe's indicates a man grown lazy and corrupt.

Ford, who set the template for much of the western genre with Stagecoach back in 1939, had by the time he made Two Rode Together in 1961 arrived at a far darker vision of the Old West. The film sees McCabe reluctantly recruited to accompany an old army friend, Gary, on a mission into Comanche territory to retrieve captives stolen a decade earlier during the Indian Wars, in exchange for a reward from their grieving families.

Of course, as McCabe warns, the captive’s time spent with the Comanche has changed them irrevocably, and when the pair return with only a white teenager, who has grown into a fierce Comanche warrior, and a more recently captured Mexican woman who had been forced into a marriage with a bloodthirsty warlord, they are ill received by the waiting relatives.

What follows is a procession of searing sequences involving murder, lynching and a spectacularly uncomfortable, joyless dance (from a director who usually finds grace and community in this ritual of the West) as the two rescued individuals are reintegrated. Two Rode Together is a film palpably thick with prejudice, cynicism and hypocrisy of its characters: a black revisionist exercise from one of America’s preeminent mythmakers.


It’s quality over quantity here, as the lone extra almost justifies your purchase by itself. Ford expert and scholar Tag Gallagher delivers a new and exclusive video essay that teases out the subtleties and strategies of the film.