Film: Red River
A 1948 movie starring John Wayne, the first Western directed by Howard Hawks. Perhaps the ultimate Cattle Drive movie, it is based on the novel The Blazing Guns of the Chisholm Trail by Borden Chase, which was originally serialized in the Saturday Evening Post.Remarkable as the first movie in which John Wayne played a character with greater depth, an aging man, and a larger-than-life borderline ‹bermensch. On first seeing it, John Ford famously commented: "Hey, the S.O.B. can act!" Ford would go on to use Wayne in a similar way in The Searchers, and it is perhaps significant that critics have likened the Duke's character in both these films to Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick. Originally Hawks wanted to cast Gary Cooper in the lead, but Cooper demanded the screenplay be changed in order to make his character more sympathetic, so Hawks offered the part to Wayne instead. Which turned out a good thing, because not only could Wayne teach Hawks a thing or two about filming Westerns, but he also was instrumental in getting the budget doubled to $1.5 million.In the prologue, Tom Dunson (Wayne) and his sidekick Groot (Walter Brennan) set up a farm on the Red River in Texas. Dunson's lady love Fen is killed in an Indian attack on a wagon trek, but he picks up the sole survivor, Matt, and adopts him, using his cow as the first of germ of what is to become a giant cattle farm.Many years later, Matt (Montgomery Clift) returns from the The American Civil War at a time when Dunson and the other farmers are in trouble because there is no buyer in Texas for their cattle. So the farmers pool their herds together for a 10,000-head drive to Missouri on what will be known as the Chisholm Trail under Dunson's leadership. Since Dunson in the prologue had not hesitated to shoot off the rightful Mexican owner of part of his land, it comes as no surprise that he runs the drive a bit harshly when times are tough. Although there are plenty of dangers and hairy moments on the drive, including a big stampede, to make this somewhat understandable, Dunson does not exactly behave rationally after a while, for instance in his outright refusal to change the direction to Abilene, which is nearer and where a new railhead has just been opened.Things come to a head when after fording the titular Red River Dunson wants to hang two of his cowhands. The crew mutinies and the trek heads on for Abilene under Matt's leadership, leaving an injured Dunson behind. On the trail they rescue a trek of settlers from a Comanche attack, where Matt meets Tess Millay (Joanne Dru) and falls in love with her. Tom Dunson meanwhile has set off in hot pursuit with some hired gunmen, swearing to get the herd back and kill Matt. He later comes across Tess as well, who tries to dissuade him from his mad quest in vain.After the arrival in Abilene, Matt succeeds in selling off the entire herd, but then has to face up with Dunson the following day. As Matt refuses to draw, Dunson can't bring himself to shoot him in cold blood and the showdown devolves into a fistfight, which is finally broken up by Tess. Says Dunston to Matt: "You better marry that girl."Not to be confused with the time travelling Shoujo Manga of the same name.
This film shows examples of:
- Black and Gray Morality: Cherry's morality was always a little shaky until his Heel-Face Turn at the end. And Mr. Dunson kept spiraling downward up until the very end.
- Camp Cook: Goot, though some may disagree.
- Cattle Baron: Dunson.
- Cattle Drive: The main focus of the film.
- Cool Train
- Curb-Stomp Battle: When Cherry tries to stop Dunson before the final showdown with Matt, he barely even slows him down.
- I'll Kill You!: Dunson tells Matt this after the mutiny, turns out to be nothing but hot air later.
- Just A Flesh Wound: Tess barely reacts to having a arrow pierce her shoulder. Though it appears to hurt a lot more coming out.
- MacGuffin: The bracelet that Tom Dunson gives to Fen and later on Matt gives to Tess.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The man who accidentally started the stampede making a clatter while trying to steal sugar from the chuck wagon, which leads to Dan Latimer's death.
- Genre Savvy: Subverted. When noticing the friendly shooting competition Cherry and Matt engage in, Groot remarks that it's setting up an inevitable confrontation between the two. ( Turns out to be Wrong Genre Savvy; Cherry supports Matt in the mutiny and becomes his effective second in command.)
- The Gunslinger: Cherry Valance is a well known gunman.
- Fastest Gun in the West: Cherry wants to go toe to toe with Matt, to see who's the best.
- Rancher Tom Dunson.
- Retired Gunfighter
- The Mutiny: Red River has been described as "Mutiny on the Bounty on the prairie".
- The Narrator: Groot, depending on which cut of the film you're watching.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Tess and Matt meet up when he's on night watch, they have a heart-to-heart...and then we fade to them laying back and flirting.
- Later on, when she shows up in his hotel room to warn him Dunson's coming, it's followed by a Big Damn Kiss...and then a fade to another scene.
- Showdown at High Noon: subverted
- Spared by the Adaptation: Tom Dunson.
- Sweet Tooth: One of Dunson's men has a predeliction for stealing sugar from the chuck wagon, which has disastrous consequences when his clattering one night rouses the skittish cattle to stampede.
- Token Evil Teammate: Cherry Valance till his Heel-Face Turn anyway.
- The Western
- Worthy Opponent: Matt and Cherry. When they first meet, they admire each other's guns and have a friendly bout of shooting. Everyone around them braces for the inevitable eventual confrontation. Doesn't happen—their mutual respect leads to a kind of friendship.
- Young Gun: Matt and Cherry.