Friday, October 17, 2014

They Came To Cordura (1959): Mini-Review

Katie-Bar-The-Door is out of town this weekend, so last night the Monkey sat on the couch with the dog and box of ginger snaps and watched They Came To Cordura, a mediocre late-50s western starring Gary Cooper as a coward ironically put in charge of making Medal of Honor recommendations during America's little-remembered invasion of Mexico in 1916.

Because America will need live heroes to pimp for the coming world war, Cooper is charged with escorting the Medal nominees back to base, giving him a perfect opportunity to quiz each man on the essential nature of courage and to marinate in his own lack thereof. Unfortunately, the nominees aren't really heroes, just deeply (deeply!) flawed men who happened to have had one reflexive moment of extraordinary valor. Given ample opportunity to demonstrate their true nature, they talk-talk-whine gripe-carp-moan all the way home while the supposed-coward Cooper shows them what real men are all about.

Sort of a Red Badge of Courage for people who wished that classic novel had fewer battle scenes and more ham-handed philosophical discussions.

The main attraction of this film for me was its setting. My late father-in-law was pals with John Eisenhower who wrote a series of books about U.S.-Mexican relations including one, Intervention!, about the time Black Jack Pershing, his cavalry aide George S. Patton and half the U.S. Army chased Pancho Villa around the mountains of northern Mexico. Eisenhower sent me a copy of the book, wrote a nice note, and I've since become something of a nut for the subject. The movie doesn't have much to say about that farcical episode in American history, but there are a few location shots and when Cooper mentioned hiding in a railroad ditch in Columbus, New Mexico, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

So in a sense, this review is really about me. As is everything I write.

Also starring Rita Hayworth and Van Heflin.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5.

Trivia note: It was during the filming of this movie that Dick York of Bewitched fame severely injured his back leading to a lifetime of pain and addiction that cut short his career.


Mythical Monkey said...

The ginger snaps, on the other hand, were awesome.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

"Love Me Some Ginger Snaps." Fewer battle scenes and more ham-handed philosophical discussions propel this black & white classic, starring Woody Allen as the lecherous upper-middle-class academic facing the draft in Manhattan in 1863.

Does TV Guide still exist? Remember those great 1-sentence movie reviews they had in the back?

Mythical Monkey said...

I looked it up -- apparently TV Guide is still out there, somewhere. I remember we used to get it when I was a kid, but with the onscreen info button, there's not much need for it anymore.

What was the great one-sentence description of The Wizard of Oz from some New York newspaper? Something like "Farm girl takes trip, kills two sisters."

Mythical Monkey said...
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