Classic Movie 2019

Classic Movie Of The Week: Red River (1948)

Starring: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru

Director: Howard Hawks

A forecful man, Dunson (Wayne) heads to Texas with his bull, determined to make it. Unfraid to make tough decisions, he leaves behind his one true love who is killed in an Indian raid. Nevertheless, he pushes on, picking up a traumatised boy, Matt, along the way, who has a solitary cow but lost everything else when his wagon train was attacked. Years later they have 10,000 head of cattle, but war has cut into the cost of beef in Texas. They must get the herd to Missouri to make it rich. It’s a tough journey, and while Dunson believes that you have to be really tough to make it, bullying everyone on his team, Matt (Clift) has other ideas, and soon the team of men are split. Can they make it to Missouri or are all their years of hard work going to come to nothing?

There’s a lot of plot in this film, but it is based loosely on true events, at least the cattle drive part. Once again, John Wayne plays a man who is a cautionary tale, set in his ways to the detriment of those around him (think The Searchers, for example). Wayne is such a symbol of a rugged type of masculinity, a single minded type who is hardened and tough enough to thrive in the Wild West. In this film, even though he’s actually playing older than his real age, it struck me how young he is. He was quite a good looking actor, which I hadn’t really noticed before, and he gives quite a subtle performance in this film, so I felt like I saw a different side of him, as an actor, to what I’d seen in other films. Juxtaposed with the more conventionionally handsome Clift, whose style is much less forceful and far more thoughtful, this makes for a great two hander film.

There are plenty of adventures along the way for this cattle drive and it’s workers, from stampedes to lurking natives. It’s a pretty exciting film. I really liked Joanne Dru, who is a delightful mix of overly feminine and Western toughness. She plays John Wayne’s doomed love interest who almost reincarnates when she also plays Montgomery Clift’s love interest later in the film. She passionate as only a woman in a Western can be, which is over the top but fun. There are a lot of great supporting roles in this film, that a great deal could be said about all of them, but I don’t have the space here.

Suffice it to say that it’s a highly entertaining film, and one that will please fans of the Western. It has everything from drama to romance, cattle and sweeping landscapes, and men who vow to murder each other.

See It If: I think this one will please fans of the Western, it’s a beautiful film with great plot and performances, however, it might be dull fare for those of you who don’t have a love affair with that genre.


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