Tuesday, June 26, 2012

352. RIO BRAVO (1959)

Running Time: 141 minutes
Directed By: Howard Hawks
Written By: Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman, from story by B.H. McCampbell
Main Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan
Click here to view the trailer


I can't say that I'm all that upset to see "Hawks Week" come to an end. What started out with a bang, quickly fizzled out, as the "Hawks Week" offerings did little to peak my interest in the classic director. I guess, however, that there is some saving grace, as the week ends almost as good as it started.

The film begins by introducing us to the central characters, while offering no dialogue and allowing us to gather the essential information. We learn that "Dude" (a.k.a. Borrachon, Spanish for drunk) will do anything to get a drink. We learn that John T. Chance (Wayne) is the Sheriff of this small, western town and we witness Joe Burdette kill an unarmed man, leading to his arrest. Chance takes Burdette back to the jail, ordering one of his deputies, the crippled and disgruntled Stumpy (Brennan), to keep watch over him. Chance also calls on his former deputy, Dude (Martin), for assistance, hoping that Dude can hold back his alcohol problem long enough to keep Burdette pinned until the Marshall comes to pick him up. It won't be easy though, as Burdette's brother Nathan sends men in to hold the town hostage, placing a man on every street corner and just waiting for the opportune time to spring Joe. Meanwhile, a stage coach rolls into town, carrying two more of the central characters: the gunslinger, Colorado (Nelson) and a vivacious brunette, known for dawning feather boas (Dickinson). Chance ends up falling for Feathers, Dude is tempted by the drink, Stumpy wants some action and Colorado wants to help. It's all presented in classic, western fashion, complete with swinging saloon doors, bad guys you don't want to mess with and heroes that (may or may not) have their number.

Actually, if I wanted to, I could find a lot to nitpick about when it comes to "Rio Bravo". I wish Hawks would have simmered down the story and just put Wayne, Martin, Nelson and Brennan inside the jailhouse and treated the majority of the picture like a zombie flick, with the heroes inside and the bad guys outside, trying to get in. You could've beefed up the dialogue to keep the viewer occupied and really played up the suspense of Nathan Burdette and his crew trying to bust Joe. Instead, Hawks found it more suitable to focus on the relationship between Chance and Feathers and him-hawed around the main focus, which should've been the boys trying to survive in the town that is being held under siege. Dickinson's character was actually quite irrelevant to the story and really only added a female lead and a love interest for Wayne's character. She could easily have been cut completely out of the picture and I think it would've done wonders to excel the story and keep the dull moments to a bare minimum. On the other hand, she wasn't hard to look at and if only her role would've been trimmed down substantially, it would've been better all around. I loved Wayne in this. He played exactly the type of character you expect him to play. Forget about the guy he played in "Red River", which was basically the bad guy; this is the type of character The Duke was meant to portray. Martin and Nelson proved that they're more than just a sweet set of pipes and I honestly cannot wait to see another Dean Martin flick, as he proved to be a fantastic actor. Brennan is Brennan and he always seems to know his part well and play it perfectly.

It's hard to argue against this one or criticize it. When it comes down to nut cuttin' time, this one has everything you could ask for in a Western. It has some really great, classic scenes too. The scene where Chance and Dude chase a shooter into a bar and only find him when the blood from his wound drips into a glass of beer, sitting on the counter. The beginning and ending portions are also mastered to perfection and the entire atmosphere of the picture, the suspense that is built and the danger that is presented all work to fuel the fire of "Rio Bravo". I think I've also learned that when it comes to Westerns, I think they're better presented in TechniColor. The blues of the wide open sky, clashing with the dusty brown of the plains. The rustic buildings, the silver stars pinned on the chests of the heroes and the shining black rifles held in the hands of the bad guys. Black and white westerns are more common, but if you ask me, I've rarely seen a GREAT black & white western. Just a thought, that I thought I'd throw out there.

RATING: 7.5/10  Well I'm glad "Hawks Week" ended on a high note. I could see this one growing on me even more with the passage of a little time.



When you talk about Howard Hawks, you're talking about probably the most classic of the classic filmmakers. His films didn't have a lot of surprises. They're the types of old films that scare more modern film audiences away from delving into classic films. They're very old fashioned and of their time and they tell stories that sometimes aren't appealing anymore. I've recently called him the Steven Spielberg of the first half of the century. He made the films that people wanted to slap down money to see. Whether he was telling stories about Army Sergeant's, private dicks, cattle ranchers or old west sheriff's, people wanted to hear the stories he was going to tell. While his films didn't always appeal to me, when they did, they usually delivered in droves. The following is a ranking of the eleven Howard Hawks features from THE BOOK. Enjoy!

1. Bringing Up Baby
2. Sergeant York
3. Rio Bravo
4. Only Angels Have Wings
5. Scarface
6. His Girl Friday
7. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
8. To Have and Have Not
9. The Big Sleep
10. Red River
11. The Big Sky

June 26, 2012  5:06pm

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