As we continue our trip through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, we come to #67, Howard Hawk’here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience..And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about
Okay, I’m going to be right upfront here and say that any western that stars Dean Martin has my attention immediately. Then when you add to that John Wayne and director Howard Hawks, you have a sure-fire hit and possibly an instant classic.
Rio Bravo has all of that, plus teen heartthrob Ricky Nelson and western stalwart Walter Brennan and an early appearance from Angie Dickinson. Sweet spot? Let’s just say if you’re a western fan at all (and I am definitely talking classic westerns here, not the more modern “deconstructed”” style) then you’re definitely going to find that spot licked and nibbled.
Martin, as per his persona, plays a sheriff’s deputy named “Dude” who cannot stay out of the bottle – so much so that he has been given the Spanish nickname “Borrachon” which translates to “Big Drunk”. Wayne is Sheriff John T. Chance who has a history with Dude and remembers what a great gunfighter he used to be. After a confrontation in a saloon leads to Joe Burdette (played by Claude Akin) killing an unarmed bystander, Chance is forced to arrest Burdette who is the brother of Nathan Burdette, the powerful rancher who holds sway over the town,.
Ricky Nelson plays Colorado Ryan, a reluctant gunslinger who is eventually drawn into the upcoming battle with Burdette’s forces. Dickinson is a mysterious drifter named Feathers (yeah, I said “Feathers”) who is introduced winning a card game in which Chance thinks she is cheating, though she soon proves otherwise and fingers the real cheater.
All of this of course leads in the best western tradition to a showdown and shootout between Burdette’s men and Chance’s uneasy allies. It’s not really a spoiler to say that Wayne’s team wins. That’s pretty much a given from the start. Instead this is definitely one of those cases where it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, and with a master like Hawks at the wheel, the journey is definitely a delight.
It’s interesting to see Nelson, who was a hotshot young singer at the time singing along with veteran crooner Martin. Wayne, of course, is completely at home in his role as the embodiment of American western bravado and swagger. And Dickinson shows why she would soon be one of America’s leading actresses
So is Rio Bravo one of the 250 best movies ever made? Possibly. But without doubt it is one of the best classic westerns ever, and definitely worthwhile viewing for anyone who is a fan of the genre, and the type of film who may make fans of those who aren’t.
Here’s your trailer: