Rio Bravo (1958)

A decade after Red River (1947), Howard Hawks reteamed with John Wayne for this rambling western riffing on the director’s usual themes of friendship and professionalism.

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Alternative titles

  • A Bull by the Tail Alternative


“Scripted with enormous wit and generosity, it’s the sort of film, in David Thomson’s words, which reveals that ‘men are more expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world’.”
Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide, 2011

Disgusted by Gary Cooper throwing down his sheriff’s badge at the end of High Noon (1952) – after the community has failed to help him in his hour of need – Howard Hawks determined to make a riposte. Here Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) turns down offers of assistance when the dastardly Burdette family rides into town to free one of their kin from the jailhouse.

In Hawks’ world, facing up to responsibility is key, and Chance depends only on his deputies, the boozy Dude (Dean Martin) and decrepit Stumpy (Walter Brennan). An hour longer than High Noon, the result is a leisurely meditation on ageing and companionship that finds time for romance with saloon girl Feathers (Angie Dickinson) and a jailhouse singsong with young gun Ricky Nelson.

Hawks and Wayne returned to this formula twice more, with El Dorado (1967), featuring Robert Mitchum in the drunkard role, then Rio Lobo (1970).

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The Greatest Films of All Time 2012

Ranked 63rd in the critics’ poll

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