Rio Bravo (film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Howard Hawks|
|Produced by||Howard Hawks|
|Written by||B.H. McCampbell
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin|
|Editing by||Folmar Blangsted|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release dates||March 18, 1959
|Running time||141 minutes|
|Box office||$5.2 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
Rio Bravo is a 1959 American Western film directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson. The supporting cast includes Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, and Ward Bond. The script was written by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell.
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In the town of Rio Bravo, Texas, former sheriff's deputy Dude (Dean Martin), who has acquired the contemptuous nickname Borrachón (pronounced: [bo.raˈtʃon], Spanish for "drunk"), enters a saloon to get a drink. Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), brother of rancher Nathan Burdette, tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon. Presidio County, Texas Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) appears and kicks the spittoon away, looking at Dude with pity. Dude is shamed by his plight and takes out his anger on Chance whom he knocks out with an ax handle. Joe begins punching him, then shoots and kills an unarmed bystander who tries to intervene.
Joe heads to his brother's saloon, where a bloody Chance arrests Joe for the murder of the bystander. When another patron draws his gun on Chance, Dude shoots the gun out of the patron's hand.
Chance's friend Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) and his supply train stop in town; with a young gunslinger, Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), riding guard. Inside the jail, Stumpy (Walter Brennan), Chance's deputy, keeps watch over the jail and Joe. A mysterious woman nicknamed Feathers (Angie Dickinson), is shown playing poker.
Dude and Chance patrol the town. Carlos stops the sheriff, saying Wheeler was talking too much about Chance needing help. Chance implores Wheeler to stop, as it will draw attention from the wrong people. Wheeler suggests that Colorado could be of assistance, but Colorado politely declines saying he wants to "mind his own business.". Colorado also promises not to start any trouble without telling the sheriff first. Feathers leaves the poker game a winner. Chance follows her up to her room and confronts her as a card cheat, with his evidence three missing aces from the deck of cards being used in the game and a handbill indicating she was wanted for card cheating. Colorado arrives saying another participant in the game is the real cheat and plans to confront him with Chance's acquiescence. As Wheeler is walking back to the hotel he is shot dead by a Burdette man hiding in the stable. Colorado offers to help but is angrily turned away by Chance who says "you had a chance to get in this and you didn't want it." Chance and Dude flush out the shooter, who escapes into Nathan's saloon after Dude wounds him. Dude believes the man had muddy boots, but everyone in the bar has clean boots. Two patrons suggest Dude is a drunk who needs a drink and one man throws a silver dollar into a spittoon. The bartender puts a beer on the bar in front of Dude. Dude notices blood dripping into the beer from above, turns, fires and kills the shooter.
Chance goes back to the hotel to sleep and unbeknown to him Feathers stands guard at the door to keep him safe, then returns to her room when he awakens. Chance asks Feathers why she did that, but she does not say. Chance insists that she should leave on the stagecoach. Nathan Burdette (John Russell) later arrives in town with his men, intent on seeing his brother Joe. Dude is standing guard and confiscating all guns from people entering town. One of Burdette's men thinks Dude is crazy and tries to enter town until Dude cuts one of this reins with a single shot. Nathan agrees to turn in their guns until they leave.
Carlos says Feathers will not get on the stagecoach and when Chance goes to see her she tells the sheriff that she does not want to leave, then gives Chance a kiss. After Colorado visits the jail to tell Chance the meaning of the song Nathan is playing, Chance gives Dude his guns back (the ones he had before he left town, sold by Dude but bought by Chance) as well as some clothes he left behind.
The next morning, while Dude is standing guard at the town entryway, four Burdette men attack him from behind and tie him up in a stable. They draw guns and corner him (Chance's rifle is out of reach), and demand that he release Joe. Inside the hotel, acting on Colorado's instructions, Feathers throws a flowerpot through a window a moment after Colorado steps out on the porch, distracting the Burdette men. Colorado throws Chance's rifle to him and the two men shoot the three Burdette hands.
The group decides to hole up in the jail, as it will take several more days for the United States Marshal to arrive to take Joe to the Presidio. Dude and Chance go to the hotel to round up additional supplies, but Carlos and Consuela are captured by Burdette's men and trick Chance into charging and falling over a rope tied at the bottom of the stairs. Dude and Feathers also are captured. Chance is given a choice—take the men to the jail to let Joe out, or the men will arrange a trade with Stumpy for Dude and Chance. Dude implores Chance to let Joe out, saying that Stumpy is alone and has no food or water to hold out very long. The remaining Burdette men at the hotel take Dude and Burdette later offers to trade him for Joe. Chance agrees and the trade is to be made at a warehouse.
During the trade, as Dude and Joe walk toward each other, Dude rushes Joe and they scuffle while a gunfight erupts. Stumpy turns up and helps even the odds. Dude overpowers Joe. The lawmen throw dynamite sticks at the warehouse where Burdette and his men are based, shooting the sticks to explode them. After a few explosions rock the warehouse, the criminals surrender.
- John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance
- Dean Martin as Dude (Borrachón)
- Ricky Nelson as Colorado Ryan
- Angie Dickinson as Feathers
- Walter Brennan as Stumpy
- Ward Bond as Pat Wheeler
- John Russell as Nathan Burdette
- Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez as Carlos Robante
- Estelita Rodriguez as Consuela Robante
- Claude Akins as Joe Burdette
- Malcolm Atterbury as Jake (stage driver)
- Harry Carey Jr. as Harold (scenes deleted)
Exteriors for the film were shot at Old Tucson Studios, just outside Tucson, Arizona. Filming took place in the summer of 1958, and the movie's credits gave 1958 as the year of production, although the film was not released until 1959.
Rio Bravo is generally regarded as one of Hawks' best, and is notable for its scarcity of closeup shots. Only four appear in Rio Bravo. In the opening scene, when Joe shoots an unarmed man. Joe's revolver is shown in closeup, when he rolls a cigarette, also when Dude pours a shot of whiskey back into the bottle, and a closeup of a beer glass where a drop of blood falls in, alerting Dude to a gunman in the bar waiting above him in ambush. The long opening scene has no dialogue. The film received favorable reviews, and was successful, taking in over US$5.5 million.
The musical score was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. His score includes the hauntingly ominous "El Degüello" theme, which is heard several times. The Colorado character identifies the tune as "The Cutthroat Song". He relates that the song was played on the orders of General Antonio López de Santa Anna to the Texans holed up in the Alamo, to signify that no quarter would be given to them. The tune was used the following year, over the opening credits of Wayne's film, The Alamo. Composer Ennio Morricone recalled that director Sergio Leone asked him to write "Dimitri Tiomkin music" for A Fistful of Dollars. The trumpet theme is similar to Tiomkin's "Degüello" (the Italian title of Rio Bravo was Un dollaro d'onore, "A Dollar of Honor").
Because the film starred a crooner, Martin, and a teen idol, Nelson, Hawks included three songs in the soundtrack. Before the big showdown, in the jail house, Martin sings "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" (which contained new lyrics to a Tiomkin tune that appeared in Red River) accompanied by Nelson, after which Nelson sings a brief version of "Get Along Home, Cindy", accompanied by Martin and Brennan. Over the closing credits, Martin, backed by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, sings a specially composed song, "Rio Bravo." Nelson later paid homage to both the film and his character, Colorado, by including the song "Restless Kid" on his 1959 LP, Ricky Sings Again.
A brief clip from Rio Bravo was among the archive footage later incorporated into the opening sequence of Wayne's last film, The Shootist, to illustrate the backstory of Wayne's character.
High Noon debate
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The film was made as a response to High Noon, which is sometimes thought to be an allegory for blacklisting in Hollywood, as well as a critique of McCarthyism. Wayne would later call High Noon "un-American" and say he did not regret helping run the writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country. Wayne teamed up with director Howard Hawks to tell the story his way. In Rio Bravo, Chance is surrounded by allies - a deputy recovering from alcoholism (Dude), a young untried gunfighter (Colorado), a limping "crippled" old man (Stumpy), a Mexican innkeeper (Carlos), his wife (Consuela), and an attractive young woman (Feathers) — and repeatedly turns down aid from anyone he doesn't think is capable of helping him, though in the final shootout they come to help him anyway. "Who'll turn up next?" Wayne asks amid the gunfire, to which Colorado replies: "Maybe the girl with another flower pot."
In August 1976, Leslie Halliwell described the film as a "[c]heerfully overlong and slow-moving western [... but ...] [a]ll very watchable for those with time to spare", giving it ** (2 stars out of 4).
Remakes and inspirations
Howard Hawks went on to make two loose variations of Rio Bravo, on both occasions under a different title. Both of these remakes were directed by Hawks, both starred John Wayne and in each case, the script was written by Leigh Brackett. All involve lawmen working against an entrenched criminal element, partially by "holing up" in their jailhouse.
- The first remake, El Dorado, was released in 1966. In this film, Robert Mitchum played the Dean Martin role, Arthur Hunnicutt the Walter Brennan character and James Caan the Ricky Nelson role. Hawks again named the Nelson/Caan character after a state (in this case, Mississippi) and in a wry, humorous twist on the original film, Hawks made him inept with firearms, but skilled with a knife.
- The second remake, Rio Lobo, was made in 1970 with a plot much further off the original mold, starting with the absence of a lawman-turned-drunkard character. This began with a Confederate train robbery of a Union gold shipment during the American Civil War, then moved to a post-war Texas county thoroughly controlled by a rich, arrogant rancher. The heroes, with the exception of an old man similar to Brennan's and Hunnicutt's characters in the previous pictures (Jack Elam here), were complete outsiders. Along with Wayne and Elam, this movie starred Mexican film star Jorge Rivero (as Frenchie), Christopher Mitchum (Robert Mitchum's son) and Jennifer O'Neill.
- Feathers's dialogue was occasionally inspired by the character of "Slim" (Lauren Bacall) in the 1944 "To Have and Have Not", as when, after the first kiss, she says: "...it's better when two people do it," recalling the phrase "it's even better when you help;" and again later when she says, "I'm hard to get - you're going to have to say you want me," recalling Slim's "I'm hard to get, Steve - all you have to do is ask me."
- L'homme à l'étoile d'argent (The Man with the Silver Star), a 1969 album from the French comics series Lt. Blueberry was directly inspired by Rio Bravo. The plot is virtually the same. Blueberry plays the role of sheriff John T. Chance; McClure, a whiskey-adoring old man, combines the roles of Dude and Stumpy; Dusty plays the role of Colorado; Miss March, the teacher, plays the role of a less morally challenged Feathers; and instead of the Burdettes, here we have the Bass brothers.
- John Carpenter's 1976 film Assault on Precinct 13, though not a remake of Rio Bravo, was inspired by the film. Carpenter borrowed some elements from the earlier film's plot but set it in 1970s Los Angeles. He also paid homage to the original film by using the pseudonym "John T. Chance," the name of Wayne's character, for his editing credit. This film was also remade in 2005 by Jean-Francois Richet, starring Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, and Ja Rule, moving the film's setting to Detroit.
- Ghosts of Mars, a 2001 film also by Carpenter, retains many of the elements that were developed in Rio Bravo and Assault on Precinct 13 but takes place in a science fiction setting.
- The Nest, a 2002 film by Florent Emilio Siri, starred Samy Naceri, Benoît Magimel, Nadia Farès, Pascal Greggory, and Sami Bouajila.
- In the director's cut of Natural Born Killers (directed by Oliver Stone and written by Quentin Tarantino) actor Woody Harrelson says the line: "Let's make a little music, Colorado," before shooting Robert Downey Jr.
- "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
- Commemoration: Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, Warner Bros. DVD supplement.
- Butler, J. February 22, 2004. Rio Bravo editing, University of Alabama Telecommunication and Film Department (retrieved August 13, 2006).
- The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association (retrieved on November 22, 2006).
- Manfred Weidhorn. "High Noon." Bright Lights Film Journal. February 2005. Accessed 12 February 2008.
- Leslie Halliwell. Halliwell's Film Guide to 8,000 English Language Films, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1977; Granada, 1979.
- Byman, Jeremy (2004). Showdown at High Noon. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4998-4.
- McCarthy, Todd (2000). Howard Hawks. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3740-7.
- Roberts, Randy (1997). John Wayne. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-8970-7.
- Wood, Robin (2006). Howard Hawks. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3276-5.
- Wood, Robin (2003). Rio Bravo. London: BFI Pub. ISBN 0-85170-966-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rio Bravo.|
- Rio Bravo at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Rio Bravo at the Internet Movie Database
- Rio Bravo at allmovie
- Rio Bravo (film) at the TCM Movie Database
- Rio Bravo at Rotten Tomatoes