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They Came to Cordura (1959)

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Re-watched this recently on DVD

They Came To Cordura (1959) Dir. by Richard Rossen



Gary Cooper ... Maj. Thomas Thorn

Rita Hayworth ... Adelaide Geary

Van Heflin ... Sgt. John Chawk

Tab Hunter ... Lt. William Fowler

Richard Conte ... Cpl. Milo Trubee

Michael Callan ... Pvt. Andrew Hetherington

Dick York ... Pvt. Renziehausen

Robert Keith ... Col. Rogers

Carlos Romero ... Arreaga

Jim Bannon ... Capt. Paltz (as James Bannon)


A psychological Cavalry film/Zapata Western, basically Coop plays a Major Thorn who at Villa's attack on Columbus NM was stricken by fear and hid out in a culvert under the railway. His commanding officer a friend of his father, spares him and recommends him for non combat duty that consists of citing soldiers for bravery for the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Near the end of Pershing's Punnative Expedition against Pancho Villa, at battle at Ojos Azules Hacienda, which was the last mounted line charge against an enemy in the history of the United States Cavalry, Cooper's character Maj. Thomas Thorn cites 5 men for the medal. Coop has a personal interest in this because he himself wonders what it takes to be courageous, so he in turn asks each of his cited soldiers what they felt during the battle and what made them courageous.


The Commander who lead the charge Robert Keith, Col. Rogers, was expecting to also be cited by Thorn, for leading the charge (so that he could receive his generals star) but he's not, and he bitterly sends Thorn with 6 men (one man cited for the medal from a previous skirmish) back to the army's rail head base in Cordura, Chihuahua, Mexico, the army wanted live heroes, and wanted to keep them out of combat until they were awarded the medals. The previously cited soldier was killed before Congress got around to awarding his medal.


Included in this detail is Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth) an American woman prisoner, the hacienda's owner, who Col. Rogers accuses of aiding the Villistas. In fact she had no choice with any of the Mexican warring factions and took all comers in. She is being sent home for trial. The confrontations with the bandits the woman, and increasingly, with each other, is the core of this adventure across a burning desert for six days back to Cordura. The very harsh circumstances reveal all five cited "heroes" to be at times pathetic, corrupt, hypocritical, cowardly, and degenerate, while Col Thorn and Adelaide Geary are shown to display an entirely different definition of courage.


Again the cavalry attack was well done and its the first I've ever seen with the US Cavalry in khaki. The CinemaScope scenery is gorgeous and upon a second viewing I knew what to expect, so I knew it wasn't going to have any of the "romance of the sombrero" of your typical Zapata Westerns and I could concentrate more on the interaction of the characters.


This is one film that tackles a difficult subject matter in an adult manner and deserves multiple viewings. It won't be everyone's cup of tea.

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> {quote:title=cigarjoe wrote:}{quote}

> This is one film that tackles a difficult subject matter in an adult manner and deserves multiple viewings. It won't be everyone's cup of tea.


Thank you very much for sharing your review with us, cigarjoe. I remember seeing this not too long ago, probably on DVD, and while I enjoyed it I thought perhaps I hadn't fully appreciated all that the movie had to offer. Your suggestion that it is a good western for multiple viewings is very much appreciated.


Plus, the cast is so good it probably can't help to be a pleasure to watch it again.

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When this movie came out, Life Magazine did a feature on the de-glamourizing of Rita Hayworth for this. And they did a wonderful job of hiding her beauty during the middle portion of this movie, where she had to portray a woman who had endured the desert heat.



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They Came to Cordura!

Unfairly and unfortunately, I never thought much of this flick whenever I caught glimpses of it on telly. It always seemed to me strange and silly; but then I always (mistakenly) thought the party led by Cooper were looking for gold. Couldn't figure it out.

Reading the synopsis today, makes me realize its hidden worth. Sounds like a fine story.


Isn't it sad about how actor Dick York was injured so gravely on this movie...then becoming addicted to painkillers... and had his career diminished because of this? But even more chilling is: what if the accident that struck him, had struck Gary Cooper instead --Cooper was right nearby when it happened!





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