Rio Bravo

Howard Hawks’s sublime western was made as a riposte to the liberal homilies of High Noon. Instead of being left to fight alone by a contemptible society when faced by a bunch of villains, John Wayne’s Marshall in Rio Brave starts out rejecting offers of assistance because his band of supporters are too old (Walter Brennan), too young (Ricky Nelson), female (Angie Dickinson), or alcoholic (Dean Martin). In this wholly unpretentious but masterful movie, Hawks explores weighty issues of pride, prejudice and professionalism through a concentration on revealing details of character and gesture as captured in wonderfully naturalistic performances. All members of Wayne’s group prove themselves not only worthy but invaluable when the shooting starts, and come together in typical Hawks fashion to form a community of insouciant professionals. Wayne’s courtship of Angie Dickinson’s saloon girl, Feathers, is a delight, with Hawks poking fun at the male’s embarrassment at all things feminine. An opportunity to see this great movie in an excellent 35mm print and followed by Miss Dickinson in person should prove irresistible. (U.S.A., 1959. 141 mins.)

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