Two Rode Together
Directed byJohn Ford
Screenplay byFrank Nugent
Based onComanche Captives
by Will Cook
Produced byStan Shpetner
StarringJames Stewart
Richard Widmark
Woody Strode
Shirley Jones
Linda Cristal
Andy Devine
John McIntire
CinematographyCharles Lawton Jr.
Edited byJack Murray
Music byGeorge Duning
Color processEastman Color
John Ford Productions
Shpetner Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 28, 1961 (1961-06-28)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.6 million[1]

Two Rode Together is a 1961 American Western film directed by John Ford and starring James Stewart, Richard Widmark, and Shirley Jones. The supporting cast includes Linda Cristal, Andy Devine, and John McIntire. The film was based upon the 1959 novel Comanche Captives by Will Cook.


When relatives of Comanche captives, including frontierswoman Marty Purcell (Shirley Jones), demand that the American army find their lost loved ones, U.S. Cavalry officer Major Frazer uses a combination of military pressure and financial incentives to coax reluctant ex-scout Marshal Guthrie McCabe to ransom any he can find. He assigns Lt. Jim Gary, a friend of McCabe's, to accompany him. They travel into Comanche territory, where McCabe and Gary bargain with Chief Quanah Parker and find four white captives. Two refuse to go back, but McCabe and Gary succeed in returning with a teenaged boy named Running Wolf and a Mexican woman, Elena de la Madriaga. Elena is the wife of Stone Calf, a militant rival of Quanah's. The evening the two men leave camp with their "rescued" captives, Stone Calf tries to take back his wife and is killed by McCabe, much to Quanah's satisfaction.

Running Wolf clearly hates white people, and no one will accept him, but a severely traumatized and broken woman is convinced that Running Wolf is her long lost son and claims him. Later, when she tries to cut his hair, he kills her. The settlers decide to lynch the boy, despite Lt. Gary's attempt to stop them. As the boy is being dragged off, Marty realizes to her horror that he is her long-lost brother, but is powerless to stop the mob. As for Elena, she finds herself ostracized by white society, deemed a woman who "degraded herself" by submitting to a savage rather than killing herself, which her Catholic faith forbade her to. Meanwhile, she and McCabe have fallen in love, exemplified when he, backed by Gary, gives the soldiers and their wives a dressing down for their treatment of Elena. Then McCabe discovers that his mistress Belle took his simple-minded deputy as a lover, and got him elected to replace McCabe as marshal. After one last humiliation from Belle, Elena decides to go to California, and McCabe happily decides to go with her. As they leave, Lt. Gary tells Belle that his friend "finally found something that he wants more than ten percent of."



John Ford agreed to direct the film for money ($225,000 plus 25% of the net profits)[2] and as a favor to Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn, who died in 1958. The director hated the material, believing he had done a far better treatment of the theme in The Searchers (1956). Even after he brought in his most trusted screenwriter, Frank Nugent—the man responsible for The Searchers and nine other Ford classics—to fix the script, the director said it was "the worst piece of crap I’ve done in 20 years."[3]

In Andrew Sinclair's 1979 biography, John Ford, Stewart revealed that Ford's "direction took the form of asides. Sometimes he'd put his hand across his mouth so that others couldn't hear what he was saying to you. On Two Rode Together, he told me to watch out for Dick Widmark because he was a good actor and that he would start stealing if I didn't watch him. Later, I learned he'd told Dick the same thing about me. He liked things to be tense."[4]

One of the film's most notable scenes is a five-minute two-shot of Stewart and Widmark bantering on a river bank about money, women, and the Comanche problem.[5] Ford shot the lengthy scene with his crew waist-deep in the chilly river.[6][5]

The film was shot at the Alamo Village, the movie set originally created for Wayne's The Alamo (1960).[7]

Two Rode Together was the first of three Westerns that Stewart and Ford would collaborate on;[8] The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance came the following year and Cheyenne Autumn was released in 1964.[9][4] This film was also the fifteenth that Jack Murray would edit for Ford. It was also the last; Murray died a few months before the film's release.

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews. The Los Angeles Times described Two Rode Together as the "most disappointing western" of John Ford’s career,[10] while The New York Times praised James Stewart’s performance as a career best.[11]


  1. ^ "1961 Rentals and Potential". Variety. January 10, 1961. p. 58.
  2. ^ McBride 2011, p. 618.
  3. ^ Eyman 1999, p. 483.
  4. ^ a b Nixon, Rob (July 29, 2005). "Two Rode Together". Turner Classic Movies. Time Warner. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  5. ^ a b McBride 2011, pp. 621-623.
  6. ^ Eyman 1999, pp. 484-485.
  7. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (March 26, 2004). "The Alamo of the Big Screen Tries to Skirt the Fate of the Original". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  8. ^ McBride 2011, p. 621.
  9. ^ Eyman 1999, p. 484.
  10. ^ "Two Rode Together". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  11. ^ Archer, Eugene (July 27, 1961). "'Two Rode Together'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2023.