Forget the Apaches. Geronimo and his gang are just noise in this picture. Okay, noise and a few well-aimed arrows. The threat they pose keeps our little party of stagecoach travelers moving right along, I’ll grant you that, but they’re not necessary.
John Wayne is necessary. The moment he appears by the side of the trail to hitch a ride is when the story truly begins. His interest turns the prostitute, Dallas, into a good woman. His recognition of Doc lends the sorry alcoholic a touch of dignity. The two of them come into their own when Lucy Mallory goes into labor.
Maybe the best service Wayne renders is telling the embezzling banker Henry Gatewood off, early on. Gatewood is almost TOO perfect a symbol of everything that’s wrong with America. Just look at how he treats the enlisted man who is called away by his commanding officer:
I can’t get over the impertinence of that young lieutenant. I’ll make it warm for that shake-tail! I’ll report him to Washington – we pay taxes to the government and what do we get? Not even protection from the army! I don’t know what the government is coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business! Why, they’re even talking now about having *bank* examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks! Why, at home I have a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!