1959’s “Rio Bravo” is a fantastic film, a favorite of many of my Western friends. It is directed by Howard Hawks, stars John Wayne and Dean Martin (along with a great supporting cast), and has plenty of fights, good guys, bad guys and a terrific sense of humor. You even get to hear Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson sing a duet. What’s not to like?
Before I go any further, let me make two notes.
First, I was recently taken to task by many in the Western community when I posted a picture on Facebook that showed my cowboy hat sitting on my desk (gasp!) brim down. I was told tradition, care of the hat, luck running out, etc. all demanded that the hat be brim up.
Well … In “Rio Bravo,” both John Wayne and Dean Martin are shown setting their hats on tables or desks — brim down. I figure if it’s good enough for the Duke…
The second thing is about having John Wayne and Walter Brennan in the same film. It struck me at one point that they probably have the two most recognizable walks in the history of Western movies, and a little later, it struck me that they probably have the two most distinctive voices in the history of Westerns.
Now, on to the actual movie.
John Wayne stars as John T. Chance, a tough sheriff with a tough problem. He’s arrested the town bully (Claude Akins as Joe Burdette), but has thirty angry gun hands to contend with, all of whom want Burdette sprung and figure if Chance gets killed along the way, so be it.
Wayne’s support consists of Stumpy (Walter Brennan), an enthusiastic assistant but one who’s old and crippled; Dude (Dean Martin), who lost his heart and sobriety to a gal and is fighting to regain both; and later in the film, Colorado (Ricky Nelson), who’s a kid, but fast with a gun. Wayne falls in love with Feathers (and when played by Angie Dickinson, who wouldn’t!), which only complicates things.
Everyone’s got challenges, and we get to watch as they work them out, all the while trying to stay alive and keep their prisoner locked up until the marshal arrives.
“Rio Bravo” went award free in 1959, but has had a long-lasting impact on Western movies and is beloved by fans.