The third of my Howard Hawks picks. This one a western. Just goes to show the breadth of this man's work. A comedy, a melodrama and a western. He did everything. I believe there're even a few musicals and sci-fi films scattered around and about his resumé. Whether or not it's fair to say his western's are what he is most well known for, films like Rio Bravo are what drew him to my attention. With a name like Howard Winchester Hawks, that could only be said to be quite apt.
I have my Father to thank for my love of Westerns. There were many, many, many Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons spent infront of the television in my youth, and my parent's choice of entertainment was mostly westerns and detective films, so I grew to love the Western by a subtle process of osmosis.
Rio Bravo is one of my favourites though. Simplistic in plot, the classic White Hats versus Black Hats. Once more, it's the cast and pitch perfect direction that lift this film above the ordinary. From Dean Martin's drunkard Deputy 'the Dude', to Ricky Nelson's gung-ho and confident gungslinger cum-trail guard 'Colorado' (who — and I kid you not, breaks into song part way through the film — and even that, corny as it sounds, works within the context of the film), Walter Brennan's cantankerous second Deputy 'Stumpy' and Angie Dickinson's excellent and morally compromised 'Feathers'. We never do get to learn her proper name, I believe.
This film became the template for many others that would come much later, such as the stunningly excellent original Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter — 1976) as well as another Wayne favourite of mine El Dorado, to name but a few.
As I say above, Rio Bravo was remade several years later as the equally good El Dorado (again starring Wayne and directed by Hawks), with some of the parts swapped around and a slight change in the 'Black Hats' and their motivations. Introducing Robert Mitchum with an excellent turn as the drunk Sheriff this time around, James Caan as the young (in a twist) not-gunslinger 'Mississippi', Arthur Hunnicut as the cantankerous old Deputy Sheriff 'Bull' and Charlene Holt's 'Maudie' as the love interest for the Wayne character. There's not much to split these two films apart, they are both highly entertaining westerns, but in my opinion the original 'Rio Bravo' has the slightest of edges.