Tag Archives: Rio Bravo

The Selling of John Wayne / Rio Bravo … Part 1

29 Jan


dream lover / rick nelson

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So WHY do I feel that Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Guns are controversial endorsements for John Wayne?

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Because all of them can kill you.

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It has to be said however, that in the 40’s and 50’s, all these product(?) were observed very differently than they are today.  Smoking and drinking were openly promoted as being not only socially acceptable, but as sophisticated social practices. Although, in Rio Bravo, Dean’s drinking is hardly portrayed as anything cool …

But before I cover John’s Guns, I want to look at Rio Bravo a bit more.

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I didn’t used to like Rio Bravo. Now I can’t remember why?

I know it’s not the Best John Wayne Western, but I’d say it’s the Most Popular John Wayne Western. I base this judgement purely upon how often it’s shown on TV – which is Very Often. Almost weekly.

I’ve watched it myself on TV several times. I never plan to, but if it’s on, I often find myself watching it. This would make it somewhat of Classic for me – a movie you can watch over and over.

So what’s the attraction? I’d say it’s the amazing Star Power of John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson – and it’s notable support cast Ward Bond, John Russell, Claude Akins … even Harry Carey Jr. is in there. These folks casually drive this movie in an almost hypnotic and effortless fashion. Good story telling /marvelous Casting.

Howard Hawks of course, knew how to make a Western: Viva Villa (1934), Barbary Coast (1935), The Outlaw (1943), Red River (1948), The Big Sky (1952), Rio Bravo (1959), El Dorado (1967), and Rio Lobo (1970).  Some Classics, most are popular and well known. Four feature John Wayne. Hawks knew John’s Star Power would easily carry any movie – even if the movie seemed fairly formula. Guaranteed box office.

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rio-bravo-poster-10 More coming … 

Mindless Westerns ? and High Noon …

3 Aug

High Noon and Politics

As a kid watching High Noon, it never dawned on me that there was anything going on ‘behind the scenes’. Lost in the wonder of an epic and heroic tale, I didn’t see it’s (and many Westerns) very strong social and political messages:

Commentaries on the politics behind High Noon:

High Noon, What Happens: Posted by Brent Allard Wednesday, March 28, 2012  http://criminalmovies.blogspot.ca/2012_03_01_archive.html:
“John Wayne (a HUAC supporter – House Un-American Activities Committee) called High Noon Un-American for it’s portrayal of the townspeople and Will Kane’s seeking help and throwing the badge in the dirt. He teamed with Howard Hawks (who called Will Kane “unprofessional”) to make Rio Bravo as a response to the film. In Rio Bravo, Wayne plays a Sheriff who with the help of a only a drunk, a kid, and a crippled man, have to prevent a gang from breaking one of their members out of jail. Wayne’s larger than life enthusiasm, is certainly a sharp contrast to Cooper’s haunted Marshal. Though both films are worth viewing, I find it difficult to side with Wayne’s optimism, although it is a pleasant diversion. Certainly to this day we have arguments about HUAC, but the beauty of western morality plays and film in general is that a good story can transcend the specific events that inspired it. High Noon is a parable for any times, including our own current extremely polarized ones. It’s difficult to live your own life, and its easy to find a justification for any moral position you can think of, or find an opinion from someone else, but ultimately the question it asks is whether or not you can live up to your own code, no matter what it costs, even if no one in the world will stand with you.”

Also this:

Emanuel Levy: “High Noon: McCarthy and Politics” – http://www.emanuellevy.com/popculture/high-noon-mccarthy-and-politics-9/

“…No matter what perspective one takes, there’s no doubt that High Noon deals with such issues as civic responsibility, active involvement in social causes, and heroic behavior during crises–all problems loaded with political overtones in the early 1950s.  Its cynical commentary on the masses’ fear of involvement in controversial issues proved to be prophetic during McCarthy’s political witch hunting.  Arguing that people should have nothing but contempt for the cowardice of ordinary folks, the film also spoke for the necessity of joint action, if enemies are to be defeated … ”

MFW: I admit that I am not a John Wayne fan. I acknowledge his undeniable onscreen charisma and that he is among the greatest movie stars of all time. I also acknowledge that he made some important and iconic Westerns. Yet I disliked him as a person and disrespected his politics. I found his ‘over the top’ super patriotism and ‘my country right or wrong’ flag waving to be very distasteful – and dangerous. I also disrespected that he refused to fight in WWII – then became a super patriot out of guilt (as one of his former wives stated). Further, Rio Bravo’s response to High Noon (by Wayne and Hawkes) is very weak. It’s ‘a John Wayne movie’. As a Western it has it’s moments – and a great cast (Wayne, Brennan, Martin, Nelson …) but as a political statement it’s pure hokum. It will not make My Favorite Westerns.

YET … as noted, if we can throw politics to the side, it’s interesting that both films still stand up and are obviously enjoyed without any political notions whatsoever.

Bravo to that … if not Rio.

Cropped screenshot of John Wayne and Angie Dic...

Cropped screenshot of John Wayne and Angie Dickinson from the trailer for the film Rio Bravo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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