Rio Bravo so, why is it so special..


Rio Bravo is the kind of movie that is easy to take for granted.

Directed by Howard Hawks, the Western stars an eclectic cast of actors, including John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan and Angie Dickinson. The plot, involving a hard-boiled sheriff (Wayne) and his ragtag friends standing up to bad men plotting to break a member of their gang out of prison, is nothing special. And there’s even a goofy musical number between Nelson and Martin.

And yet “Rio Bravo” (1959), unreeling at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas at ArtsQuest on Wednesday, July 10, at 7:15 p.m., ranks as one of the best westerns ever made. As Peter Travers once wrote in “Rolling Stone,” this masterpiece isn’t “showoffy.” It “comes on so easy that only later do you realize how funny, touching and vitally expressive it is.” Exactly.

So, why is it so special? In some ways, it’s the ultimate hang-out movie, with so much of its appeal resting on the relaxed yet realistic relationships between Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne), the barfly Dude (Martin), the old coot Stumpy (Brennan) and the kid gunslinger Colorado (Nelson). “Rio Bravo” is as much about friendship — and Dude’s redemption — as anything else.

It’s no secret that “Rio Bravo” came into being largely because of Hawks’ hatred of 1952’s “High Noon,” in which Gary Cooper plays a sheriff who is forced to beg for help from shopkeepers and other citizens after revenge-minded varmints blow into town.

“I didn’t think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head off asking for help, and finally his Quaker wife [played by Grace Kelly] has to save him,” Hawks said at the time.

For “Rio Bravo,” Hawks decided to do “just the opposite” and have Wayne’s sheriff, at one point, exclaim of potential helpers, “If they’re really good, I’ll take them. If not, I’ll just have to take care of them.”

As Hawks said, “We did everything that way, the exact opposite of what annoyed me in `High Noon’ and it worked, and people liked it.”

Indeed, “Rio Bravo” was a big hit with movie-goers when it first opened. Critics were a bit more begrudging with their praise but, today, the film is regarded as a stone-cold classic. It’s even inspired a number of unofficial remakes, including John Carpenter’s “Assault On Precinct 13” in 1976 and Jean-Francois Richet’s “Assault on Precinct 13” in 2005.

“a work of extraordinary psychological insight and aesthetic perception but Hawks has made his film so that the insight might go unnoticed … Hawks is [great] because he has succeeded in fitting all that he holds dear into a well-worn subject.”

A. Longsdorf





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