This week on Find That Film, we return to the true classics of American cinema with Red River. Episode seventeen, season four, lauds the 1948 Howard Hawks western and the acting chops of John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.
After being the sole survivors of a wagon crossing, Thomas Duncan (John Wayne), Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), and orphaned Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift) build a Texas cattle empire. Thomas puts together a team of cowboys to drive their surging stock to a viable market since Texas can no longer support them. The trip takes its toll on the relationships and men. Eventaully, Matt sides with the men against the man who raised him and the drive turns into a life or death run.
John Wayne delivers on an unusual role for him. Thomas Duncan is more grey and dark than you’re used to seeing him. Clift turns in a star making performance. The supporting cast keeps up with the two heavy hitters. Take note of Walter Brennan, John Ireland, and Noah Beery Jr.
Howard Hawks finally explored the western genre and it paid off for everybody despite the editing and pacing issues. Wisely, he brought John Wayne into the starring role and in an advisory position. Leaning on Wayne’s experience, Hawks used Arthur Rosson and William McGarry to great effect behind the camera. He developed new visual storytelling techniques for Red River that have become mainstays in ensemble films. Perhaps his greatest success with this film was his ability to bring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift together despite their differing approaches and personalitites.
As a side note, if you’re into film history and behind the scenes antics, then you should research this one.
There are a lot of best movie and best western lists. Too few of these lists feature this film. We urge you to watch, enjoy, and find that film Red River.