Rio Bravo (1959)
Directed by Howard Hawks
Cast: John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance
Dean Martin as Dude
Ricky Nelson as Colorado
Angie Dickinson as Feathers
Walter Brennan as Stumpy
Ward Bond as Pat Wheeler
John Russell as Nathan Burdette
Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez as Carlos
Estelita Rodriguez as Consuelo
Claude Akins as Joe Burdette
Malcolm Atterbury as Jake
Sheriff John Chance looks after law and order in the town of Rio Bravo with the help of his deputies, Dude, a man who has become a drunk after an unrequited love affair with a woman named Feathers, and Stumpy, an aging and crippled lawman. Chance arrests Joe Burdette, the brother of wealthy rancher Nathan Burdette for shooting an unarmed man. As Chance is preparing to take Joe to stand trial, he learns that Nathan has hired a veritable army of gunslingers to storm the town and rescue his brother. Chance has a bit of good luck when an old friend, Pat Wheeler, arrives in Rio Bravo delivering a shipment of explosives. Pat offers to help Chance with his problem, but Chance politely refuses, not wanting to put his friend in danger. Also just arriving back in town is Feathers, the woman who Dude loves and whose rejection has driven him to drink. Fearing Feather’s effect on his already shaky deputy, Chance orders Feathers to leave on the next stagecoach out of town. That evening, Chance catches Feathers playing a crooked game of cards at the hotel, as she was rumored to be traveling with a shady gambler, but it turns out that it was another gambler at the table who was dealing dirty. Chance apologizes to Feathers, but still wants her out of town. Later, an unknown assailant shoots Pat in the back, killing him. Chance and Dude go out to apprehend the perpetrator, believing him to be one of Nathan’s men. The man flees from the stable where his is hiding to the saloon, where Dude finds him and outguns him, killing the assailant. Throughout the night, Feathers, who has taken quite a liking to Chance, stands outside his door where he boards at the hotel to warn him if something should happen. Chance, however, does not know of her activities or her feelings. Feathers refuses to leave the next day, professing her feelings for Chance, who admits that if Rio Bravo wasn’t in such a mess at the time, he might be able to reciprocate. Nathan tips the band to play the same song all night, known as the cutthroat song, one that the Mexican army played all night outside of the Alamo before they invaded the next morning. Everyone in Rio Bravo knows that tomorrow will be the showdown. Dude has gone without drinking, and is suffering withdrawal symptoms the next morning when he is abducted by Nathan’s men. Shortly thereafter, three gunslingers ride into town and claim they need a doctor, but are really looking for a showdown with Chance. Feathers distracts the men by throwing a flower pot out the window, allowing Chance the window he needs to gun them down, and rescue the captured Dude. Not feeling up to the task, Dudes first instincts are to turn in his badge and crawl back into the bottle. Knowing that Dude needs to face his problems, Chance tries to egg him on and berate him for needing a drink. With a drink in his hands, Dude notices that his hands aren’t shaking anymore and that the withdrawal symptoms are gone. With Dude’s confidence restored he joins Chance’s side as deputy. Also deputized is Colorado, a gunslinger and bodyguard that came to town with Wheeler. They decide to make their stand in the jail. Chance and Dude go to the hospital to stock up on supplies, unaware that Nathan’s men have already captured it. Chance and Dude are captured, and Nathan sends Chance and three of his best men to the jail to get Joe to trade for Dude. When they arrive at the jail, Colorado, Stumpy and Chance are able to overtake them. They gather up Joe and go to meet Nathan on the edge of town, leaving Stumpy at the jail. Once there they begin the trade of Joe for Dude, but Dude tackles Joe midway, knocking him unconscious and Chance and Colorado open fire. Stumpy arrives and prevents Chance and Colorado from being surrounded. Nathan’s men retreat into a building. Seeing Wheeler’s wagon of explosives, Chance and his deputies throw stick after stick of dynamite into the building and then ignite them with one well-placed bullet shot. The building explodes in flames and Nathan, defeated, surrenders.
The sets of the movie were built at a slightly diminished 7/8th scale, giving the illusion that the characters are larger than life.
Harry Carey Jr. made the mistake of calling Howard Hawks 'Howard' instead of 'Mr. Hawks' on one of his first days on the set, infuriating the director so much that he removed him from the film. Although per contract, Harry Carey Jr.’s credit remains on the film, and his pay was honored.
The movie was created by Howard Hawks and John Wayne as a counterpoint to High Noon, which John Wayne felt was un-American. In response Gary Cooper, star of High Noon, panned the movie when it came out calling it, “so phony, nobody believes in it.”
This was the last movie that Ward Bond and John Wayne would do together, thus ending a 22 movie span throughout the men’s career. It was also Ward Bond’s last major film role.
One week into shooting on May 8th, Ricky Nelson turned 18. As a rite of passage, John Wayne and Dean Martin gave him a 300 lb. bag of steer manure, and then threw him into it.
Montgomery Clift turned down Dean Martin’s role because he didn’t want to work with John Wayne or Walter Brennan again. He had worked with them in Red River, 1948. At that time, it was a concern that Wayne and Clift wouldn’t get along because of their politics; however they agreed not to discuss it and shooting went smoothly until Wayne and Brennan discovered Clift’s homosexuality. Wayne tried to have Clift removed from the film for having an affair with actor John Ireland.
Howard Hawks took a four year hiatus from directing after the bomb of Land of the Pharaohs. Rio Bravo marked his return to Hollywood.
Quentin Tarantino is quoting as giving one of his personal dating tips. Before getting serious with a girl, he shows her Rio Bravo. If she does not like the movie, she’s out.
Dean Martin’s agent set up an appointment with director Howard Hawks regarding his role for the film. Hawks agreed to meet with him at 9:30 the next morning. To make the appointment, Martin had to hire a plane to take him to the appointment after doing his show in Vegas at midnight. Hawks was so impressed with this that he gave Martin the role on the spot.
John Wayne kept his hat from Stagecoach, and wore it in several movies. This was the last movie he made with that hat.
When cast for this movie, the producers insured Angie Dickinson’s legs with Lloyds of London for publicity.
Elvis Presley was originally offered Ricky Nelson’s role, but his manager, Col. Tom Parker, wanted too much money and insisted on top billing. Hawks and Wayne kept looking.
Rio Bravo was the first and only film to be produced by Hawk’s Armada Productions.
In 1976, John Carpenter wrote and directed Assault on Precinct 13, a modern day retelling of Rio Bravo.
Directors: Howard Hawks
Actors: Claude Akins, Ward Bond, Walter Brennan, Angie Dickinson, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Estelita Rodriguez, John Russell, John Wayne