The lost movie of the week: Rio Bravo (1959)

The Western genre was a hugely popular genre in the forties and fifties of the previous century and many famous actors and directors created some beautiful and lasting classics.

The sheriff of a small town in southwest Texas must keep custody of a murderer whose brother, a powerful rancher, is trying to help him escape. After a friend is killed trying to muster support for him, he and his deputies – a disgraced drunk and a cantankerous old cripple – must find a way to hold out against the rancher’s hired guns until the marshal arrives.

Howard Hawks (“His Girl Friday”, “The Big Sleep”) directs this masterpiece with starts with a beautiful shot first scene without dialogue. “Rio Bravo” is powerful and well-acted. Hawks makes you root for the characters by deeply investing in them. The action is well directed and tremendously entertaining.

The film is based on the short story: “Rio Bravo” by B. H. McCampbell. “Rio Bravo” screenplay was written by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett who wrote “The Big Sleep” for Hawks.

The cast is very eclectic: you have Western legend John Wayne, crooner Dean Martin and teen idol Ricky Nelson in the lead roles. The supporting cast is composed of: Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, and Ward Bond. This weird bunch of different people made the film, unexpectedly, work. The chemistry between the lead actors and more particularly between John Wayne and Angie Dickinson is a joy to watch.

The film was made as a reaction to the critical acclaimed film “High Noon” (1952) which was written by a blacklisted writer Carl Foreman. Wayne and Hawks were supporters of the McCarthyism and waned to proof that a true hero doesn’t fear anything and could face the danger alone.

In 2014, “Rio Bravo” received an important honour: it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and thus selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Stanley Berenboom

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