Classic Westerns Part One: Rio Bravo

Rio-Bravo

We take cleanliness very seriously in this office.

Have you ever wanted to watch a movie that is purely comforting like a warm, soft blanket? You might not expect it, but this western showdown is just the thing. I’ve been revisiting some old classic westerns, and I found that Rio Bravo is still as good, nay, better than I remember.

If you’ve seen a John Wayne movie before, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you might be wondering how that gruff old man who is always confronting people in your grandpa’s movies could ever be thought of as comforting. But it seems we are in the middle of an era of anti-heroes, so it’s nice to go back to an older time when you could trust the lead character to be uncompromising in his values and all but fearless in the face of danger.

In this wild west saga, John Wayne plays a sheriff who has arrested the brother of a very influential cattle baron. Although pressured by the  brother and his hired guns, the sheriff will not give up the murderer until a US Marshall comes to the town to take the prisoner into custody. Meanwhile, his deputy (played by Dean Martin) struggles with alcoholism.

This beer has blood on it... meh, I'll drink it anyway.

This beer has blood on it… meh, I’ll drink it anyway.

Things get complicated when a mysterious lady and a young but prudent gunslinger arrive in town. The lady’s motives are unclear, but she is either trying to seriously annoy John Wayne or to marry him, while the gunslinger just tries to be super cool and stay out of trouble, but soon he too is drawn into the main conflict.

Aside from the shooting and chases and gun duels, much of this movie involves people just hanging out. This is where the tensions and friendships between the characters keep the viewer fascinated even when guns are not blazing. They even enjoy a musical interlude, and with talent like Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson (the Justin Bieber of the ’50s, only better at singing), who could blame them?

As Jeffrey M. Anderson says in his Combustible Celluloid review,

“The movie has a sort of glee that goes with it. It’s more than exciting, and more than just interesting or funny. It’s a pure joy to watch.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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11 thoughts on “Classic Westerns Part One: Rio Bravo

  1. I can’t pick a favourite between this and El Dorado. Both are similar in story and characters, with Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum essentially exchanging roles, and Ricky Nelson and James Caan doing the same. Both films are great Westerns.
    I’m not too keen on Ricky Nelson personally – but there’s a real warmth to John Wayne’s character here, almost like a father figure and any film featuring both Dean Martin and Walter Brennan really should be seen by everyone.

  2. Wow, Sonya, you’re awesome! You’ve surprised me. You love the old westerns!

    John Wayne is one of my favorite actors, and Dean Martin has always played incredible parts in westerns. Have you seen Bandolero! ? Such a great film. Gosh, I could go on with all the old-time actors. Rio Bravo is an amazing movie that I’ve always loved. Dean Martin was great in it. And yeah, blood in the glass? Drink it! 🙂

    • Thank you, Jack! I hadn’t really written much about westerns due to the swashbuckling nature of my blog’s former incarnation. I used to watch a lot of westerns with my dad when I was young, and now that I’m not moving around as much and have access to a video rental store, it’s nice to revisit them.
      I didn’t know you liked John Wayne, that’s awesome. I haven’t seen Bandolero, but I’ll add it to my list. 🙂

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