HORSE SOLDIERS, THE
John Ford's only attempt at tackling the subject of the Civil War is based on Grierson's Raid, part of the Union's assault on Vicksburg in April 1863. After several failed efforts at taking the southern stronghold, Union leaders assign Col. John Marlowe (John Wayne), a railroad designer in civilian life, to lead a cavalry detachment to destroy a vital railroad hub at Newton Station, behind Confederate lines. Marlowe's unit includes Major Kendall (William Holden), a cynical physician disgusted by the notion that there's glory in the carnage, and the politically ambitious Colonel Secord (Willis Bouchey). Marlowe temporarily appropriates the plantation of southerner Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers) while in transit and is forced to take her along, in lieu of killing her, after she overhears his plans for Newton Station. As their journey continues, Marlowe realizes that he is much more interested in Hannah than in her political sympathies. Wayne and Holden give gritty, soulful performances, and William Clothier's photography is outstanding in a film that delves beneath simplistic notions of heroism to reveal something more complicated, grisly and real. (Note courtesy of Park Circus.) DIR John Ford; SCR/PROD John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin, from the novel by Harold Sinclair. U.S., 1959, color, 120 min. NOT RATED
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