I finally got around to watching a classic western movie I’d heard about for years, Rio Bravo, and it’s a good one. John Wayne is the sheriff of a dusty old town who has to hold a bad guy, a murderer, in the local jail for six days while he waits for the U.S. Marshall to show up and take the bad guy away. But then the bad guy’s brother and a gang of hoodlums comes into town and threatens to break the bad guy out of jail. John Wayne has two deputies to help him out. One of them has the shakes all the time because he recently stopped drinking, and the other one is an old coot called Stumpy who moves slow and walks with a limp. It’s a tense situation right from the start because the bad guys could easily make a move and blow them all to Kingdom Come if they’re not careful. It’s not a shoot-’em-up action packed movie, but every scene and just about every shot reveals something significant about the characters and moves the story along at a more rapid and anxious pace as it goes on. Two of the actors in the movie are singers, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, so there is one obligatory scene where they sing a couple songs together, which is indicative of how generally harmless the movie is, but even though it’s not a violent and dirty movie like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, it doesn’t need to be because the story is so well told. It’s not a slow and dragged out western either. It’s over two hours long, but I didn’t notice the time because I was engaged from the first scene to the last. They don’t make movies like this anymore.
I agree with everything Roger Ebert says, that Red River is a film that captures “the exhilaration of being on a horse under the big sky with a job to do and a paycheck at the other end. [It is] one of the greatest of all Westerns…”
It’s a bit chauvinist in its portrayal of women, but it’s easy to overlook such qualities because it is so damn entertaining (things I can’t easily say about other so-called classic Westerns such as The Searchers).