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Film / Two Rode Together

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Two Rode Together is a 1961 Western film directed by John Ford, starring James Stewart, Richard Widmark, and Shirley Jones. It's loosely based on Will Cook's novel Comanche Captives, and bears strong similarities to Ford's previous Western, The Searchers.

The plot involves Marshal Guthrie McCabe (Stewart) and cavalry Lieutenant Jim Gary (Widmark) hired to rescue white captives from Comanche Indians led by Quanah Parker (Henry Brandon). They succeed in negotiating the release of Elena (Linda Cristal), a Mexican woman and "wife" of Comanche warrior Stone Calf (Woody Strode), and Running Wolf (David Kent), who may or may not be the brother of Marty (Jones), Gary's love interest. However, McCabe and Gary's mission has complications: the captives don't want to return to white society, and the whites seem reluctant to accept them.


The film wasn't well-received on its initial release — Ford himself labeled it "the worst piece of crap I've made in twenty years" — and was criticized for rehashing The Searchers and for lacking the Scenery Porn associated with Ford Westerns. Thanks to the dark subject matter and its stars, however, Two Rode Together has a strong cult following among Western fans, especially since its release on Blu-Ray.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: capturing white women seems to be the usual way for Comanches to get wives.
  • Anti-Hero: McCabe is upfront about his mercenary intentions and even sells rifles to the Indians to secure the captives' release. He does become more sympathetic over the course of the film, though.
  • Black Comedy: Mostly in the early scenes.
  • Bookends: The opening McCabe sipping a beer on the terrasse of Belle Aragon's saloon. The closing scene has his idiot deputy doing the same, now that Belle has selected him to take McCabe's place as both her boyfriend and the sheriff.
  • Brownface: A black man and a white man playing Comanche, with Henry Brandon basically playing the same role he played in The Searchers. Maybe a little more justifiable this time, as the real Quanah Parker was in fact half-white (although the film does not mention this).
  • The Captivity Narrative: McCabe is charged with liberating white prisoners who have spent years with the Comanches. The two white women he finds both refuse to return because they regard themselves as having been Defiled Forever, while the young man he "liberates", Running Wolf, murders the white woman who imagined that she was his mother. Only Elena, the Mexican woman, reintegrates into white society.
  • Cavalry Officer: First Lieutenant Jim Gary.
  • Cooperation Gambit: McCabe trades rifles for captives with Quanah Parker.
  • Damsel in Distress: Elena de la Madriaga.
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: McCabe leaves the town to escape from Belle Aragon's marriage proposal. He ends up following Elena de la Madriaga in California.
  • Default to Good: McCabe only accepts the mission because he expects to get a high pay.
  • Defiled Forever: How the community perceives Elena, since she'd been married to Stone Calf.
  • Fish out of Water: Elena has trouble adapting to the Comanche woman's lifestyle.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: The Indians are mostly violent savages, the whites are greedy racists, nobody comes off well.
  • Historical Domain Character: Quanah Parker was a real person—and it just so happens that he was the son of a white woman, Cynthia Parker, who was a real-life example of The Captivity Narrative.note 
  • Leave the Camera Running: McCabe and Gary's long conversation by the river, which runs four minutes without a cut.
  • I Work Alone: McCabe does not want Lieutenant Jim Gary to accompany him.
  • Miss Kitty: Belle Aragon, who is the Love Interest of Marshal Guthrie McCabe.
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: the music box reminds Marty Purcell of her brother.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Sergeant Darius P. Posey.
  • Raised by Orcs: Running Wolf, taken by the Comanche when he was nine and has totally gone Savage Indian, being even more savage than Quanah.
  • The Savage Indian: all of them, but in particular Stone Calf.
  • Spiritual Successor: An even darker variation on The Searchers, with many of the same actors playing similar roles (eg. Henry Brandon as another Comanche Indian chief, John Qualen as a Swedish immigrant).
  • The Starscream: Stone Calf is organizing the Comanche behind Quanah Parker's back to start a war with the whites.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: the angry mob wants to lynch Running Wolf. Lieutenant Gary tries to shame the mob, but it does not work.
  • Tragic Keepsake: the music box of Marty Purcell's brother.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Neither Elena nor Running Wolf is keen on returning to white society.
  • U.S. Marshal: Marshal Guthrie McCabe.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: McCabe and Gary come across as this.