They Came to Cordura (1959)

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    • They Came to Cordura (1959)




      Plot Summary
      After a cavalry charge during the 1916 U.S. "war against Pancho Villa,"
      unheroic awards officer Tom Thorn (who is obsessed with the nature of courage)
      recommends 4 men for the Medal of Honor. He is ordered back to Cordura with them...
      and prisoner Adelaide Geary, gringo who sheltered the enemy.
      On the arduous journey, Thorn's heroes show a different face,
      and Thorn may have one last chance to prove he's no coward.
      Written by Rod Crawford

      Gary Cooper ... Major 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 ... Colonel Rogers
      Carlos Romero ... Arreaga
      Jim Bannon ... Capt. Paltz (as James Bannon)
      Edward Platt ... Colonel DeRose
      Maurice Jara ... Mexican Federale
      Sam Buffington ... 1st Correspondent
      Arthur Hanson ... 2nd Correspondent

      Robert Rossen

      Writing Credits
      Ivan Moffat ... (screenplay) &
      Robert Rossen ... (screenplay)
      Glendon Swarthout ... (novel)

      William Goetz ... producer

      Elie Siegmeister

      Burnett Guffey ... director of photography

      Besides looking far too old for his character, Gary Cooper was actually quite ill during shooting,
      and participated in this film against the advice of his doctors.
      Towards the end of the film he was dragged 100 yards along the ground by a railroad handcar,
      something film critic Stanley Kauffmann complained about in an issue in the magazine New Republic.

      In a 1960 interview John Wayne criticized this film and Montgomery Clift's Suddenly, Last Summer (1959),
      both of which treated homosexuality (in this film because of an implied homosexual relationship
      between the characters played by Gary Cooper and Tab Hunter),
      as "poison polluting Hollywood's moral bloodstream."
      The latter, he said, was "too disgusting even for discussion."

      Dick York suffered a back injury during the filming of this movie and never fully recovered from it.
      Continuing back problems forced him off of the TV show
      Bewitched (1964) in 1969 and effectively ended his career. He spent his last years in poverty.

      Although Gary Cooper was 57, his character Major Thorn was supposed to be in his thirties.
      Early in the film it is mentioned that Thorn's father had recently been killed while still on active service.

      The film was originally intended to be two and a half hours in length, but was cut down to about two hours.
      Robert Rossen was restoring the film to its original length when he died in 1966.

      When the film was released both "Variety" and "Films in Review" complained
      that Gary Cooper was too old for his character.

      Gary Cooper was only six years younger than 63-year-old Colonel Rogers,
      although his character Major Thorn was supposed to be about thirty years younger.

      During filming Gary Cooper arranged for his daughter to "date" gay actor Tab Hunter.
      He had previously arranged for her to "date" gay actor Anthony Perkins
      while they were filming Friendly Persuasion (1956), a film he hated.

      Montgomery Clift turned down the role of Major Thorn.

      John Wayne said, "How they got Gary Cooper to do that one!
      To me, at least, it simply degrades the Medal of Honor.
      The whole story makes a mockery of America's highest award for valor.
      The whole premise of the story was wrong, illogical, because they don't pick the type of men
      the movie picked to win the award, and that can be proved by the very history of the award."

      There were rumors that Gary Cooper had undergone surgery earlier that year,
      although officially he did not undergo surgery for cancer until April 1960.
      He had also had a full facelift in April 1958, but the procedure was largely unsuccessful.

      Film debut of Michael Callan.

      Average Shot Length = 10 seconds. Median Shot Length = 10.4 seconds.

      Crazy Credits
      Opening credits prologue:

      On the night of March 8th, 1916, a large mounted force of Mexican rebels under Pancho Villa
      crossed the American Border and attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico,
      killing and wounding both American civilians and soldiers.

      As a result of this action,the United States Army sent an expedition into Mexico
      with orders to capture Villa and disperse his forces.

      It was during this campaign that one man, an United States Army officer,
      was forced to come face to face with two of the great fundamental questions that affect mankind:

      What Is Courage? What Is Cowardice?

      This is the story of his search for an answer.

      One of the soldiers is singing the folk song Denver,
      which was written by Randy Sparks for the New Christy Minstrels in 1962.
      the movie is set in the Mexican Wars in 1916.

      Character error
      Major Thorn improperly salutes Colonel DeRose in the opening scene when he is dismissed.
      He should have saluted and held his salute until it was acknowledged.
      Instead, he lowers his arm even before Colonel Rose acknowledges it.

      Memorable Quotes

      Filming Locations
      St. George, Utah, USA
      Bavispe, Sonora, Mexico
      Utah, USA

      Watch the Movie

      Best Wishes
      London- England
    • They Came to Cordura is a 1959 Western film co-written and directed by
      Robert Rossen, starring Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth,
      and featuring Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, Richard Conte, Michael Callan, and Dick York.

      It was based on a 1958 novel by Glendon Swarthout.


      User Review

      Our Comic Opera War in Mexico
      18 September 2006 | by bkoganbing (Buffalo, New York)

      BKO wrote:

      They Came to Cordura is one of the very few films I've seen about our intervention in Mexico after Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico and shot the joint up. President Woodrow Wilson authorized our intervention under the command of John J. Pershing who went on to a more serious military intervention shortly.

      It was a real comic opera affair. We fought a few skirmishes, chased Villa around halfheartedly, even the Mexican government under President Venustiano Carranza was against us even though Villa was very much against him. It was over with few casualties.

      In the initial raid on Columbus in our story, Gary Cooper froze under fire and hid in a railroad ditch. Because his father was a big shot in the army and was killed there, Cooper's actions were covered up and he was given the non-combat assignment of awards officer.

      So on a raid on Mexican sympathizer Rita Hayworth's ranch where some Villistas have taken cover, Cooper's job is to find worthy candidates for medals. He finds Van Heflin, Richard Conte, Tab Hunter, Michael Callan, and Dick York. His job is then to bring them back to the American base in Cordura.

      The journey reveals the less than sterling character of these men of courage. Quite a bit happens on the way to Cordura, some of it a little too unbelievable for me.

      This was one of Gary Cooper weakest films in his last years. He is horribly miscast, he's way too old for the part he's playing. He's 58 when this film is made and shows every bit of it. The film mentions his father being killed at Columbua, he must have been 80 if he was still on active duty. Someone like Montgomery Clift should have been in his role.

      Director Robert Rossen doesn't have a tight grip on the rest of the cast, they all overact outrageously. Of course since the whole story is rather incredulous, what else were they to do.

      For fans of Cooper and Hayworth only.
      Best Wishes
      London- England