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Saturday, October 7, 2017

They Came To Cordura (1959)

In 1916 Mexico as the U.S. Army wages an attack on the forces of Pancho Villa, a Major (Gary Cooper) is assigned the task of leading five Medal Of Honor candidates (Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, Richard Conte, Michael Callan, Dick York) and a female prisoner (Rita Hayworth) accused of aiding and abetting the enemy to the military base of Cordura. First on horseback, then on foot. The Major is determined to find out what causes men to engage in heroic behavior at the risk of their lives. Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout (WHERE THE BOYS ARE) and directed by Robert Rossen (ALL THE KING'S MEN). This potent look at the thin line between bravery and cowardice still hasn't received its proper due. Not surprisingly, the film failed at the box office when first released. 1959 audiences didn't want to see Gary Cooper as a coward and masochist, an aging and deglamorized Rita Hayworth as a traitor, teen heartthrob Tab Hunter go crazy or Van Heflin and Richard Conte as rapists. The film raises some provocative questions and the answers aren't always what we want to hear or see. It's not a great film by any means but definitely worth seeking out if you haven't seen it. The excellent underscore is by the classical composer Elie Siegmeister, the only film score he ever wrote. With Robert Keith and Edward Platt.   

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