Connect with us


Rio Bravo, my favourite film – My Blog

Move aside Hitchcock, Welles, Ozu and Ophüls. They only managed to make what I consider the greatest movies. Howard Hawks made the ones I love.

Rio Bravo, not to be confused with Rio Lobo or the director’s other pale imitation, El Dorado, is Hawks’s masterpiece. And a weekend BBC movie matinee slot some three decades ago was a perfect introduction. Watching Rio Bravo demands the best part of an afternoon or evening and a particular frame of mind. It is a nigh-on two and a half hour western in which the tumbleweed lazily rolls across the main street from one character to another. Of course there are shootouts, but there’s also time to include a languorous duet from two late-50s celebrities – showbiz crooner Dean Martin and pop idol Ricky Nelson. And, as with all Hawks’s films, lots and lots of talking.
What there’s precious little of is plot. Simply put, John Wayne’s marshal and his bunch of misfits are guarding the jail from the lawless Burdette clan aiming to free the gang leader’s brother, who is likely to hang for murder. Famously, Hawks drew his inspiration from High Noon, which he hated and in which, as the director put it: “Gary Cooper ran around trying to get help and no one would give him any. And that’s rather a silly thing for a man to do, especially since at the end of the picture he is able to do the job by himself.”
Hawks proceeded to “do the opposite” in Rio Bravo and the only help Wayne gets is from a drunk (Martin), a rookie teenage gunslinger (Nelson), a disabled man – a memorable portrayal by Walter Brennan – and a woman on the run from the law herself, played by a young Angie Dickinson. They answer respectively to the names Dude, Colorado, Stumpy and Feathers. Wayne is known by his surname, Chance.

The use of nicknames is important. Hawks’s richly drawn characters are on familiar terms with each other and, just as importantly, the audience feels close to and is rooting for them. These are people moviegoers are going to enjoy spending time with. We feel deeply involved as each of them faces up to their particular challenges. What mattered to the director was creating a world in which, as happened time and again in his movies, a group of professionals, typically men, have to prove themselves to others in that group, or gain or renew their self-respect or strive for redemption.
Those only familiar with Martin’s appearance in the Rat Pack films and as straight man to the madcap Jerry Lewis will be astounded. Hawks revealed that the actor/singer, whose reputation for heavy drinking was already widely known, was “hungry” for the part, and I defy anyone not to be moved when Dude pours his “last” glass of whisky back in the bottle without spilling a drop to signify he has overcome the DTs and is ready for the climactic showdown.
The same is true of the scene when Feathers breaks down with relief after she has helped save Chance, the man she loves, but only at the expense of four other men’s lives. I have watched this scene and heard Feathers’s speech innumerable times – and I still can’t say I fully grasp its complexities. Critic Robin Wood, in his BFI Film Classics monograph on the movie, writes of the character’s “existential choice”. And in her exclamation “We’re all fools” there’s certainly an echo of another of my favourite films, Limelight. In that 1952 movie a fading music hall star, played by Charlie Chaplin, and a suicidal ballet dancer (Claire Bloom) look to each other to salvage some hope and give meaning to their lives. “We’re all amateurs,” declares Chaplin at one point. “We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”
The idea that friendships, underlined and shaped by our choices and actions, give our lives meaning is central to Rio Bravo too. Brennan’s Stumpy, for the most part a comic foil to the film’s stars, has a similar role to his one in Hawks’s To Have and Have Not in that, in both, he is utterly loyal to those who have taken a stand – in the earlier film against Nazis in occupied France; here in opposition to rapacious land baron Nathan Burdette. “Four hundred and sixty acres might be little to you, Nathan, but it was a lot of country to me,” he says, in answer to the villain’s suggestion he bears a grudge.
If all this makes Rio Bravo sound like a po-faced treatise, that is most definitely not the case. Hawks’s movies took in every major genre from gangster (Scarface) to sci-fi (The Thing from Another World), film noir (The Big Sleep) to musical (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), but can broadly be categorised as either comedy or adventure films. Compelling cases have been made for each in the case of Rio Bravo. It is one of the film’s lasting delights, and evidence of Hawks’s supreme achievement, that it switches effortlessly between both.
As in similar Hawks movies, such as Only Angels Have Wings and indeed To Have and Have Not, where the threat of death is a constant backdrop, the tension is palpable but Rio Bravo effortlessly segues from a scene in which Wayne and co are in the most danger to the funniest, when the sheriff mockingly kisses Stumpy after he has complained he never gets any thanks, and Brennan reacts by whacking Wayne on the backside with a broom.
Hawks also makes Feathers’s pursuit of “John T” Chance as enjoyable as any movie seduction in the era of the Hays code. No other director had such fun with the sex war or subjected his male leads to such indignities at the hands of their female counterparts. (Think Cary Grant in Katherine Hepburn’s flouncy dressing gown in Bringing Up Baby; Rock Hudson’s humiliations in Man’s Favourite Sport?; or Grant, again, wearing women’s clothes in I Was a Male War Bride.) Hawks clearly relishes the games he plays with the Wayne persona and Chance’s flummoxed reaction to Dickinson’s pursuit.
Over the course of Rio Bravo we are treated to an entertainment masterclass, a high watermark of Hollywood cinema in its heyday. I may not go as far as Quentin Tarantino, who declared that he would show the film to any new girlfriend and end the relationship if she did not declare her undying love for Hawks’s classic, but it is the movie I return to again and again, to revisit old friends and remind myself what form optimism takes in a work of art.
 BY Guardian

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Restoration of John Wayne’s ‘The Searchers’ to Premiere at 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival – My Blog

John Wayne’s 1956 Western “The Searchers” will debut a new restoration as part of the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival in April.This marks the second Wayne film to receive a premiere of a restored print at the yearly event that takes place on Hollywood Boulevard. Last year’s opening night feature was a 4K restoration of Wayne’s 1959 film “Rio Bravo.”This year’s festival theme is “Most Wanted: Crime and Justice in Film.” Alongside “The Searchers,” TCM announced that Frank Capra’s 1934 film “It Happened One Night,” Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront” and the 1974 musical documentary “That’s Entertainment!” will also screen as part of the four-day festival in April.It’s unknown if “The Searchers” will be the film’s opening night movie, though considering “Rio Bravo” was also a restoration last year it would make sense that Warner Bros. would continue to debut new 4K prints of their films as part of the event’s opening night.This year’s TCM Classic Film Festival marks the return of the event after the classic film network underwent significant changes behind the scenes this year. In June, TCM’s senior vice president of programming and content strategy Charles Tabesh, vice president of studio production Anne Wilson, vice president of marketing and creative Dexter Fedor and TCM Enterprises vice president Genevieve McGillicuddy were all laid off, alongside TCM’s general manager Pola Chagnon leaving the company after 25 years.From there, stories started to tumble out that the network was in the crosshairs of a series of cost-cutting measures implemented by Warner Bros. Discovery. In the wake of widespread outcry from fans, both Tabesh and McGuillicuddy were offered their positions back. It was also announced soon after that Warner Bros. Pictures heads Pamela Abdy and Michael De Luca would be overseeing the network, with input from world-class directors including Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.The TCM Classic Film Festival enters its 15th year in 2024 and will also take place during the network’s 30th anniversary.The TCM Classic Film Festival will take place in Hollywood April 18-21.

Continue Reading


John Wayne’s spanking of co-star ‘so authentic she had bruises for a week’ – My Blog

Back in 1963, John Wayne starred in a Western comedy loosely based on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.Duke played an ageing rancher called George Washington McLintock, a wealthy self-made man facing a number of issues.High-ranking government officials, his own sons and local Native Americans all want a piece of his huge farmstead.Meanwhile, his wife (played by regular collaborator Maureen O’Hara) who separated from him two years prior, is back on the scene demanding custody of their daughter.McLintock! celebrates its 60th anniversary this week, as celebrated by the John Wayne estate on Instagram.A recent post read: “Did you know? Although often seen as simply a knockabout comedy, John Wayne also intended the film to be a statement on his disapproval of the negative representation of Native Americans in previous westerns he had no creative-control over, and his disapproval of wife-beating and marital abuse from either spouse.”A film of its time, McLintock famously has a scene, as captured on its poster, of Wayne’s George publicly spanking his wife played by O’Hara.According to his co-star’s autobiography, this scene was “completely authentic” with Duke carrying it out with “such gusto”, that she “had bruises for a week.”

Continue Reading


Martin Scorsese’s Favorite John Wayne Western – My Blog


 Martin Scorsese considers John Wayne’s The Searchers to be the best Western ever made, describing it as a masterpiece with a deeply painful core. The Searchers has had a significant influence on Scorsese’s movies, inspiring scenes and characters in films like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets. The Searchers is also a favorite among the “movie brats,” a group of influential directors including Spielberg and Lucas, who cited it as a major influence.

Martin Scorsese’s favorite Western starring John Wayne has had a big influence on his career. Scorsese hasn’t made his passion for cinema or filmmaking a secret, and he is essentially a living archive of the medium’s history. He loves everything from the trashiest B-movie to the most highbrow drama, which is something that’s reflected in Martin Scorsese’s own movies. He has helmed everything from gangster epics to psychological horrors to biopics and everything in between.
One genre he hasn’t really dipped a toe into is a Western, which is likely down to the decline of the genre itself than Scorsese avoiding the genre. About the closest he’s come is his 2023 epic Killers of the Flower Moon, though far from being a black-and-white adventure about cowboys righting wrongs, it’s a devastating true-life drama. Scorsese has professed his admiration for a few classic Westerns (via Far Out) such as Ride the High Country or Marlon Brando’s sole directorial outing One-Eyed Jacks, but there’s one that holds a truly special place in his heart.Scorsese Believes John Wayne’s The Searchers Is The Best Western Ever Made
In 2013, Scorsese guest-reviewed a book about John Wayne Western The Searchers for THR, where he proclaimed it a masterpiece but that “Like all great works of art, it’s uncomfortable. The core of the movie is deeply painful.” The premise of the movie sees Wayne’s Civil War vet Ethan Edwards and his nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) setting out to rescue his kidnapped niece. It might sound like the setup for a classic Western adventure, but John Ford’s The Searchers deals with some dark themes, with Wayne portraying the most ruthless character of his career as the deeply prejudiced and revenge-addicted Ethan.
Scorsese has often called The Searchers one of his favorite Westerns, in addition to being one of the greatest movies of all time, period. From the gorgeous cinematography, the evergreen themes and Wayne’s haunting central turn, it’s a film the director finds himself coming back to decades after he first watched it. The Searcher’s ending has been much discussed among film scholars too, with Scorsese himself feeling the shot of Ethan turning and leaving through the door turns it into a “ghost story;” the character has fulfilled his purpose but is now doomed to wander the deserts alone, like a spirit.The Searchers Inspired Scorsese’s Own Movies
Travis Bickle at the movies in Taxi Driver
The film made a major impression on Scorsese when he saw it as a boy, and its influence can be spotted in his own work. His debut Who’s That Knocking at My Door features a scene where protagonist J.R. (Harvey Keitel) talks about both John Wayne and The Searchers in great detail, while the Ford movie appears again in Scorsese’s crime drama Mean Streets from 1973. The Searchers was a direct influence on Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, with the journey of Robert De Niro’s Travis being a mirror of Ethan’s. He’s another loner filled with anger and hatred, looking to rescue a young girl in Jodie Foster’s Iris.The movie ends with Travis rescuing Iris in the bloodiest manner possible, and like Ethan, the movie leaves him on an ambiguous note. The influence of The Searchers can also be felt in the director’s attraction to anti-heroes and flawed protagonists, who may see themselves as fundamentally good men or heroic, despite the appalling acts of violence they commit or the selfishness they display.The Searchers Is A Favorite Of The “Movie Brats”
Steven Spielberg leaning against a camera with George Lucas standing beside him on the cover of Indiana Jones bonus material DVD
The Searchers was well-received upon its initial release, but it soon came to be recognized as an American classic. The late ’60s and ’70s saw the rise of the so-called “movie brats,” who were a group of talented young directors who were also nerds for the medium. Members of this group include Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, John Milius, Paul Schrader and many more. What’s notable about this group is how many of them cited The Searchers as a favorite.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan also cited The Searchers as a major influence on Breaking Bad’s finale.
According to The Telegraph, Spielberg claims he rewatches The Searchers before starting work on a new movie, while Milius and Schrader – who penned Taxi Driver – have also sung its praises. The movie was a huge influence on Lucas’ Star Wars, which can be found in its basic promise – a young man and older mentor set out to rescue a young woman – its desert vistas and the sequence where Luke (Mark Hamill) discovers his burnt-out family homestead. Star Wars was a mash-up of many influences from samurai epics to movie serials, but Westerns like The Searchers played a particularly large role in the movie.
Source: Far Out, THR, The Telegraph
the searchers poster
The SearchersRelease Date:1956-03-13Director:John FordCast:John WayneRating:pg-13Runtime:119minutesGenres:Western, DramaWriters:John FordBudget:$3.75millionStudio(s):Warner Bros. PicturesDistributor(s):Warner Bros. Pictures

Continue Reading