Friday, April 2, 2010
Movie of the Week
RED RIVER (1948)
Starring- John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan
This is the best Western ever made. I have a great appreciation for many films in this genre, but for me, Red River tops them all. Director Howard Hawks brilliantly depicts the harsh life of a cattle drive from Texas to Missouri and gets great performances out of his leading actors- Wayne and Clift. It is the back and forth between these two men that makes Red River special, as Wayne plays a more villainous role than usual to Clift's hero.
The story centers around cattle baron Thomas Dunson (Wayne) and his desire to take his large herd of cattle North to market, at any cost. At first, his adopted son Matthew Garth (Clift) is his staunchest ally, but as the drive gets longer and harder, Dunson becomes a brutal leader and eventually forces his men to mutiny. Garth is then left to lead the drive while Dunson stalks him to get revenge. Red River is by no means a complex story, but it has some very nuanced scenes that make it seem more complex than it really is. Also, it has a fabulous supporting cast that enhances the drama between Dunson and Garth.
I love this film because it is fun, exciting and suspenseful all at the same time, and it seems more realistic than some of the other Westerns of this period. Kudos must go to Hawks whose direction and cinematography make this film seem larger and more epic than it already is. The shots are so dynamic at times that you almost don't notice that the movie is in black and white. If you like Westerns or The Duke, make sure to put Red River at the top of your list.
Things to Watch For-
Two Jaw Quo
A Revolutionary 360 degree pan shot of the herd
The Great Score by Dimitri Tiomkin
The Red River D belt buckle worn by Wayne that he wore in pretty much every movie after
The great Walter Brennan as Groot
"There are only two things more beautiful than a gun: a Swiss watch or a woman from anywhere."