They Came to Cordura
|They Came to Cordura|
|Directed by||Robert Rossen|
|Produced by||William Goetz|
|Written by||Ivan Moffat
Glendon Swarthout (novel)
|Music by||Elie Siegmeister|
|Editing by||William A. Lyon|
|Running time||123 min.|
|Box office||$2.5 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
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.
Tom Thorn (Gary Cooper) is a U.S. Army cavalry officer who displays cowardice when his frontier garrison is attacked in 1916. He develops an obsession with what constitutes courage in others. After a cavalry charge during the 1916 U.S. expedition in Mexico to capture Pancho Villa, Thorn recommends four soldiers for the Medal of Honor. During their return journey to Cordura a series of harrowing incidents make it clear that the apparent heroes were motivated by ambition, terror, racism or chance while it is the disgraced Thorn who possesses moral courage.
During World War II, author Glendon Swarthout had obtained eyewitness accounts for Medal of Honor citations while serving with the 3rd Infantry Division in Southern France. This personal experience was applied to his novel.
Dick York suffered a severe back injury during the filming that caused him great pain in his later years, so much so that he was forced to resign from his longtime role of Darrin Stephens on the 1960s television program Bewitched, and indeed, the injury almost ended up ruining his life.
In 1916, as U.S. soldiers wage war against Pancho Villa's Mexican troops, Army Major Thomas Thorn (Gary Cooper) is assigned to be a battlefield observer and reward heroism. He has been suggested for this duty by a Colonel Rogers (Robert Keith), who is 63 years old and impatiently yearning to be promoted to general.
Rogers commands his unit to make a poorly planned, old-fashioned Cavalry charge on a villa owned by Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth) where a number of Villa's men have been staying, enjoying her hospitality. Thorn, excused from the fighting, observes through his binoculars various acts of heroism by Lt. Fowler (Tab Hunter), Sgt. Chawk (Van Heflin), Cpl. Trubee (Richard Conte) and Pvt. Renziehausen (Dick York) in defeating Villa's men, although not before many U.S. soldiers are slaughtered.
Rogers is proud of having personally led the charge, but furious when Thorn won't nominate him for a citation. Thorn insists that a commanding officer cannot be honored for a command decision he himself made. Rogers counted on the fact that he saved Thorn from an investigation into a charge of cowardice from a previous engagement, saying he did so out of respect for Thorn's father.
Thorn intends to recommend the four soldiers for the Medal of Honor. He is ordered to take along the traitorous female prisoner, Mrs. Geary, who is charged with "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." A fifth soldier, a private (Michael Callan) also nominated by Thorn for a medal, rides with them to the Texas town of Cordura.
This seemingly simple task becomes increasingly complex, however, as the incessant squabbling between Thorn and the men threatens to destroy them all. Eager to learn more about their acts of bravery, Thorn finds the men to be hostile toward him, ill-mannered toward the woman and, in some cases, heroic merely due to a desire to survive the warfare. They ultimately turn against Thorn, forcing him to fight fellow soldiers to save his own life.
- 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 (billed as James Bannon)
- Edward Platt ... Col. DeRose
- Maurice Jara ... Mexican federale
- Sam Buffington ... First Correspondent
- Arthur Hanson ... Second Correspondent