The terrible John Wayne movie that convinced Quentin Tarantino to retire early


Quentin Tarantino will establish himself as one of the most influential modern filmmakers of all time when his tenth and final movie, The Movie Critic, is finally released. However, as a lifelong student of film, Tarantino has learnt from the best in how and how not to approach his career, with the director’s decision to step away from behind the camera influenced by a terrible John Wayne movie.

The film in question is 1970’s Rio Lobo, a western directed and produced by Howard Hawks and starring western genre icon John Wayne. It was the third Hawks movie that varied on the concept of a sheriff defending his office against outlaws in a town, following the 1959 classic Rio Bravo and 1966’s El Dorado. 

Notably, after directing widely influential titles such as the original Scarface, The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday and Red River, Hawks is hailed as one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time. He made a tremendous impact on Tarantino, who lists Rio Bravo as one of his favourite films, with his passion for the project so extensive that he even uses it to test new love interests. As for Rio Lobo, the final movie by Howard Hawks, Tarantino’s opinion on it could not be more different.

A mediocre western that saw Hawks and Wayne team up for the third time in the same vein as they had done twice before, it failed to replicate the heights of what came before it and was received by negative reviews and bombed at the box office. In fact, the movie was such a disaster to Tarantino that it was the one that convinced him to retire early.

Taking to American Cinematheque at a Q&A following a double screening of Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds in 2010, Tarantino explained why he wanted to quit filmmaking early. He said: “As far as an artist is concerned in this business, it’s about the filmography. That’s what it’s about. It’s about every one being of a piece. And that’s why I want to get out, at a certain part in the game. I want to live or die by that filmography.”

The Pulp Fiction auteur explained: “And you know—we all know—if anyone knows it in this room, it’s you as well—is, the most cutting-edge artist, the coolest guys, the hippest dudes, they’re the ones that stay at the party too long. They’re the ones that make those last two or three movies that are completely out of touch and do not realise the world has turned on them. And they have no idea how corny they are. And I’m really talking about the hippest filmmakers who ever existed in Hollywood. But you know, you can’t expect these guys to know that life has changed and they’re out of tune or that they’re corny. And I just don’t want to be corny.”

Noting Rio Bravo as an example of a film where a director got it so wrong at the end of their career, as well as one of the great John Ford’s last efforts, Cheyenne Autumn, Tarantino reasoned: “I want all my movies to have some connection to Reservoir Dogs. And I just don’t want to make Buddy Buddy. And Fedora and—what was the Marthe Keller [movie], Fedora, yeah. Sounds like a hat. But I don’t want to make Cheyenne Autumn, I don’t want to make Rio Lobo.”

Watch the trailer for Rio Lobo below.

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