Best of the West: Day V

16. Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959)

Just a fair warning, folks: this list is probably going to be John Wayne and Clint Eastwood heavy, to a degree. However this is also due to the fact that both actors worked with some truly great directors. Wayne worked with Hawks a couple of times, the other one that I know of (and have seen) being the lesser El Dorado, which is really a loose remake of this movie. John Carpenter also loosely remade this film with his excellent and underrated Assault on Precinct 13, which came out two decades later. So this movie has a rather broad based appeal, despite the fact that its a simple, straightforward western. Hawks, best known for creating screwball comedies with Carry Grant, stepped out of his comfort zone to make a machoistic picture that also displays what any fan of The Thing From Another World knows: that Hawks was actually good at creating scenes of raw, engaging tension.

Despite its rather simplistic core, the movie is expertly paced and really well made. Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, and Ricky Nelson all have an easy going, notable chemistry that is quite important to the movie’s success. Without their ability to act off each other quite well, there is no way this movie would have worked at all. The gunfight scenes are entertaining of course, but what I loved most about Hawks is how good he is at directing a well written script here that has some great dialogue, and he even manages to work in some witty banter. When discussing the movie, I don’t think that the movie’s screenplay, which is fantastic, is covered well enough, and I would say that this is one of the best scripts The Duke ever got to work with.

A final note on this movie is that Angie Dickinson is a wonderful actress who throughout the movie displays a good rapport with Wayne’s character. I haven’t actually examined how westerns treat women, and too many of them fail to even feature strong women characters, but perhaps because Hawks was involved (he after all worked with Katherine Hepburn) in this movie, he made sure to not make an entirely male oriented movie. For which I’m thankful, considering how easy Dickinson is on the eyes, not to mention her character gives the movie a rather funny and charming ending.


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