Film Greats: Howard Hawks’ ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Edwin Pereyra, Nov 1, 2001.

  1. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    It’s time for a Western to grace this series.
    When one asks what are some of the best John Wayne western films, The Searchers, Stagecoach, Red River and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance often get mentioned along with Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo.
    Rio Bravo is the story of Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) who must try to keep a man in jail for a murder charge for a week until the U.S. Marshall arrives in town. He is aided by an old semi-crippled jailkeeper Stumpy( Walter Brennan) and Dude (Dean Martin), a recovering alcoholic, from those who would go at any length to get the murderer out of jail. Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson also join the cast.
    I found Rio Bravo to be good and entertaining primarily because of its character driven narrative. It manages to be suspenseful, funny, romantic and dramatic all at the same time. One would think that for a film, which looked like it was shot entirely in a studio backlot, without any location shootings and a running time of 141 minutes, that it would drag. But it never did. The story held my attention throughout the entire film to which I have to credit the writers and Howard Hawks. Hawks certainly has this creative talent as evidenced by his other films, which includes His Girl Friday, Red River and The Big Sleep.
    Ricky Nelson is probably the weakest link in the entire cast but I did not take his character too seriously other than a young man with idealistic notions in his mind. All of the performances in this film actually worked for me. With two well-known singers in a major motion picture - Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, I was wondering when the singing was going to start. I was glad to see that the musical numbers were restricted to no more than two. [​IMG]
    In a way, I prefer Rio Bravo over High Noon because this Howard Hawks feature is the complete antithesis of the Fred Zinnemann 1952 film, and represents the values to which I can relate to. High Noon has been criticized as being un-American as Gary Cooper’s character is unable to round up a single posse to help him deal with four ex-convicts, even after serving the town for so many years. There was even a rumor that John Wayne didn’t like that film and had to make this one along with Hawks to make a statement. (See, I knew I wasn’t alone on this one, so there. [​IMG] )
    If I were to rank the five John Wayne films mentioned above, it would look like this:
    1.Red River
    2.Stagecoach
    3.Rio Bravo
    4.The Searchers
    5.The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    - - -
    Film Greats – A continuing quick look at motion pictures that, in one way or another, have been called “great films” by some. Other Films In This Series: Frank Darabont’s http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/007712.html http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/006466.html
    [Edited last by Edwin Pereyra on November 01, 2001 at 12:32 AM]
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  3. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    It's funny that you compare this to "High Noon". I just finished reading a biography of Howard Hawks and he hated "High Noon" and he made "Rio Bravo" intentionally to show what a good western should be. I don't remember reading if Wayne hated it or not.
    I personally like both films, but "Rio Bravo" is definitely the better of the two.
    My fave Duke movies.
    1. The Searchers
    2. Rio Bravo
    3. The Quiet Man
    4. The Man who shot Liberty Valance
    5. Red River
     
  4. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    Overall Score: B+
    [​IMG]
    - action sequences
    - character development
    [​IMG]
    - cheesy musical number
    Reviwer's Tilt: [​IMG]
    I got to watch this movie at a screening because it was required watching for a film class I'm in. We watched this movie in preparation for analysis of the Western genre. This is one of the most enjoyable Westerns I'd ever seen. Each character seemed to fit a certain role. Dude was the town drunk whose progression from slob to upstanding deputy can be seen in the clothes he wears. Stumpy was your typical gold miner/old man with wisdom of the older days. And Angie Dickinson was your typical gal that has a thing for lawmen. Quite cliched characters, but they don't in any way detract from the wonderful story in this movie.
    However, my appreciation for this movie was hard to take because of some people in my class. They're that cynical bunch you always sit next to for some strange reason (eg. sort of like the people I'd read about in Ghost World). They kept saying how cheesy it was with the Dean Martin "sing-a-long" and the numerous number of gay undertones (where they got that from, I don't know). I agree with the sing-a-long part (it seemed kinda forced, considering Dean Martin is part of the cast), but I still don't quite get the gay undertones.
    It's funny that you all mention High Noon. I actually liked that movie more than Rio Bravo, but only slightly. Yes I've heard the stories of Howard Hawks and John Wayne not liking this movie. I like those two and all, but they really have an extremely narrow view of things and only see in black and white. Every sheriff has to be the really good guy, and every rancher is the really bad guy. And Rio Bravo was a response to that. The sheriff in High Noon went around looking for help. John T. Chance didn't, and even went so far as to turn down help. Everybody in High Noon was relatively a coward, while everybody in Rio Bravo wanted to help out in some way.
    What I wanted to point out is the irony behind all this. Even though Gary Cooper went around looking for help, he ended up taking ALL the bad guys on himself, with a little help in the end. John Wayne, however, ends up taking on the bad guys with a posse. Just thought I'd point that out.
    I can think of very few reasons why High Noon is slightly better than Rio Bravo, but if one thing does stand out, Grace Kelly is a hell of a lot hotter than Angie Dickinson. [​IMG]
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    [Edited last by Dome Vongvises on November 01, 2001 at 07:30 PM]
     
  5. Charles Bober

    Charles Bober Stunt Coordinator

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    Great review Edwin!!!! Being a huge John Wayne fan, it's refreshing to talk about the Duke in this day and age when westerns aren't "in" and old school tough guys aren't hip.
    I love almost all JW films, it's difficult to pick a top 5. I'll give it a whirl though. I'm a HUGE westerns fan but I can't ignore the Duke's war movies either.
    Top 5:
    • The Alamo-such an epic story about an epic moment in history. I guess I have a sentimental spot for this film knowing the Duke poured all his own money, blood, sweat, and tears to get this movie made. And it bankrupted him and basically dashed all hopes of him being a big director in Hollywood. Shame since the movie is great IMHO, especially the director's cut/roadshow version.
    • The Longest Day-another epic and IMHO the best war picture of all time. The Duke's rock hard portrayal of a D-Day company commander is dead on and is the cornerstone of the movie. It's always on in my household every Memorial, Veteran's, & D-Day.
    • Rio Bravo-I always thought this flick was underrated. Many write Deano & Ricky off but their performances are quite good: they never detract from the film and often do more than they're supposed to do.
    • Rio grande-my favorite of the "Calvary Trilogy." The classic fighting frontier story but with the personal and internal struggles that go along with commanding and leading such a campaign. Maureen O'Hara is brilliant as well.
    • Sand of Iwo Jima-Sgt. Stryker might be my favorite JW character ever. Tough, relentless, never-say-die, but painfully fair. Maybe being a Marine sways me but this is such a brutally realistic account of the bloody campaign yet undeniablt ultra-patriotic. This film made me want to join the Corps.
    I have so many other favorites but if I didn't stop now, I'd have a John Wayne top 50 list [​IMG]
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  6. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    For some reason, Hawks decided to remake Rio Bravo in less than 10 years (original release 1959, remake 1967). The remake, El Dorado, was again starring John Wayne in his old role, with Robert Mitchum playing the old Dean Martin part, and a young James Caan playing the old Ricky Nelson role. And no, I don't think the remake was better, it was kind of OK.
    It's hard to compare High Noon with Rio Bravo, as they are such different movies. Besides Grace Kelly, the other claim to fame of High Noon is it's probably the ONLY western movie that's relatively "real time". The plot, from Cooper and Kelly's wedding to the showdown took place within about 80 some minutes, just about the length of the movie.
     
  7. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I really enjoyed Rio Bravo. I've probably only seen maybe 6 or 7 John Wayne movies, but I'd rank this one up there alongside The Searchers and The Shootist.
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  8. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    High Noon was a rather obvious allegory for the HUAC goings-on in Washington. The fact that it transcends this is a credit to all involved, but the political allegory is one of the reasons that John Wayne was not going to like it. Hawks' publicly stated objection was that Gary Cooper's going around town begging for help and being Spoiler:saved by his Quaker bride was no way for a man to behave - hence the manlier Rio Bravo was born. Rio Bravo was more or less devoid of political allegory, so the real other side of the coin HUAC allegory film came 4-5 years prior with Kazan's On the Waterfront.
    Both films are excellent. High Noon has the intentionally deeper thematic resonance. Rio Bravo's main strength is the typical Haward Hawksian touch of honing every scene to perfection in terms of interest and entertainment value. You can't go wrong with either one, but Rio Bravo is clearly the more "fun" of the two.
    Regards,
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    Ken McAlinden
    Livonia, MI USA
     
  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I totally agree with Ken's interpretation and appreciation of both films. Each is a great film in their own way!
    Crawdaddy
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  10. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    Crawdaddy wrote:
    Craw, believe me when I say that my often used sidebars are not meant to take a jab at you. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Dome wrote:
    Yes, those ungrateful little bastards. [​IMG]
    Ah, don’t worry about it. The detractors can raise this element to just about any film. They said the same thing to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and I also had the same reaction. Where?
    Finally, nice insight, Ken.
    ~Edwin
    [Edited last by Edwin Pereyra on November 02, 2001 at 12:29 AM]
     
  11. Gilbert Galindo

    Gilbert Galindo Stunt Coordinator

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    I heard somewhere that this is QT's favorite film.
     
  12. Jim DiJoseph

    Jim DiJoseph Second Unit

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    This movie is one of my all-time favorites. I particularly like the way in which it portrays Wayne's character as a tough guy and a softie at the same time.
    The bar scene where Chance and Dude are searching for a killer is classic! Spoiler:Chance nearly breaks a guy's jaw just for lying to him while Dude makes a fool out of a guy who earlier insulted him. Great exchange!
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  13. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    It is one of Tarantino's favorite films. He stated somewhere that whenever he meets a new girl, he shows her Rio Bravo and "She had better like it". I interpreted this as meaning that this is his screening process for choosing dates.
     
  14. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    If anyone's interested, Rio Bravo is playing today at noon on Turner Classic Movies, just before Dr. Zhivago.
     
  15. Brad Vautrinot

    Brad Vautrinot Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm a huge John Wayne fan and like both Rio Bravo and El Dorado. I have to say that I like El Dorado better and feel that the casting director could have easily found a better choice than Ricky Nelson. While Dean Martin was capable of turning in an excellent dramatic performance, he seemed to be unconsciously reverting to his comedic tendencies on more than one occasion. Mitchum's performance was much more credible, in my opinion. James Caan's role was slightly better than Nelson's but not by much. Anyway, I love both versions and please forgive my nitpicking.
    I know this thread was centered on Wayne's westerns but I have to put in a plug for one of my favorite John Wayne films - The Wake Of The Red Witch. This one has it all, high seas adventure, romance, drama, action, love, and the Duke. Wayne's character had a much darker side and feel than is usually seen in his other films and Gail Russell was both excellent and beautiful.
    I also like High Noon and can't offer anything new and can only say that I agree with Ken's assessment when comparing HN with RB. Both are wonderful in their own right.
    Brad V.
     

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