This is the first installment in John Ford's Cavalry trilogy and, like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande, it was based on a short story by James Warner Bellah. The screenplay was written by debuting ex-critic Frank S. Nugent, who (at Ford's suggestion) compiled detailed background histories for each character and these dictated everything from the décor of their rooms to their response to orders and their interaction with the other inhabitants of the fort.

    Ostensibly, this is a typical Ford Western, with plenty of sentimental comedy lacing the meticulously staged action. But its primary emphasis is on military etiquette, with each rank knowing its place and the importance of deference to the effectiveness of the unit. Even drinking in the mess is as subject to hierarchical acceptance as formal social events like the dance. Yet Ford is also intrigued by the manner in which army wives conduct domestic life within the confines of a front line stronghold and he uses Shirley Temple's adolescent exuberance to question Irene Rich and Anna Lee's unconditional support for such unflinching patriarchy


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