Dunson leads a cattle drive, the culmination of over 14 years of work, to its destination in Missouri. But his tyrannical behavior along the way causes a mutiny, led by his adopted son.


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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Fen (as Colleen Gray)
Mr. Melville (as Harry Carey Sr.)
Quo (as Chief Yowlatchie)
Teeler Yacey
Mickey Kuhn ...
Matt - as a Boy
Ray Hyke ...
Walt Jergens
Old Leather (as Hal Talliaferro)


Fourteen years after starting his cattle ranch in Texas, Tom Dunston is finally ready to drive his 10,000 head of cattle to market. Back then Dunston, his sidekick Nadine Groot and a teen-aged boy, Matt Garth -who was the only survivor of an Indian attack on a wagon train - started off with only two head of cattle. The nearest market however is in Missouri, a 1000 miles away. Dunston is a hard task master demanding a great deal from the men who have signed up for the drive. Matt is a grown man now and fought in the Civil War. He has his own mind as well and he soon runs up against the stubborn Dunston who won't listen to advice from anyone. Soon, the men on the drive are taking sides and Matt ends up in charge with Dunston vowing to kill him. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama that surges with the most spectacular scenes ever filmed! See more »


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Parents Guide:






Release Date:

17 September 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The River Is Red  »

Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (original theatrical)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Harry Carey Jr. later said that while John Wayne did not personally like Montgomery Clift, he did not deny that Clift was very effective in the film. See more »


The film gives 14 August 1865 as the completion of the first cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail. However, the first cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail started and finished in 1867, two years later. See more »


Matt Garth: You'd have shot him between the eyes.
Thomas Dunson: [Determinedly] Just as sure as you're standing there.
See more »


Featured in The John Wayne Anthology (1991) See more »


I Ride an Old Paint
Sung by Harry Carey Jr.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A film which is spectacle at its best , although spectacle is by no means all of it...
21 November 1999 | by (Mexico) – See all my reviews

From 1939 to 1948, two major Westerns done with taste and skill and with an eye to beauty could be mentioned: John Ford's "Stagecoach," and Howard Hawks' "Red River."

"Red River" is a great adventure Western considered as the very best among all Westerns... But could we compared it to Ford's splendidly filmed "Wagon Master"? John Ford maintains his shooting eye at a certain distance while Howard Hawks keeps it nearby... But both are skilled directors of a bunch of great movies…

Ford is closer to Western movies, and Hawks to other genre... Ford treats his Western characters as people behave... Hawks displays it in vivid adventure... In "Red River," "Rio Bravo," and "The Big Sky" Howard Hawks is far from the magnitude of Ford's "The Searchers." Under Ford's instruction, John Wayne is fluent and moderate, refined in conduct and manners as in "The Quiet Man." With Hawks, Wayne's character prevails differential tendency toward passion and fury...

It is soon evident that the cattle boss is tough to the point of obsession… It could be argued that only men of this spirit could have handled and survived the first pioneering cattle drives… One of the drovers (John Ireland) wants to make for Abilene but gets no change out of Wayne… When the cattle stampede Wayne goes to 'gun-whip' one of the hands, Clift intervenes… It was then evident that Wayne was going to drive his men just as hard as he intends to drive the cattle…

"Red River" is a Western just as much concerned with human relationships and their tensions as with spectacle and action—a hallmark of Hawks' films and this element is introduced when the pair meet up with a boy leading a cow… The boy confirms the wagon-train massacre, and the boy and the cow from then on are included in the partnership… This is not only a key-point of the narrative but also a highly symbolic moment…

For some years Garfield was the only screen rebel... But in Clift's appearance in "Red River," another rebel was born… In "Red River," Clift plays the adopted son who opposes his father's domineering attitudes and behavior towards himself and also towards the cowhands who work for them on the drive to market… The struggle between father and adopted son, compels delighted interest... Dunson's unfeeling hardhearted style remembers us Captain Bligh in "Mutiny on the Bounty." In the beginning of the film we had admiration for Wayne's persona... We concluded finding him unfriendly, unconscious, unacceptable and faulty... Clift wins our sympathy!

Clift was the withdrawn, introverted man who quietly maintains his integrity as he resists all pressures… These qualities were summed up in the words of Private Prewitt in "From Here to Eternity" probably Clift's finest rebel role!

"Red River" will remain a film with a unique flavor… It has, and will continue to have, its own special niche among honored Westerns…

With two Academy Award Nomination for Writing, splendid music score by Dmitri Tomkin and excellent acting including the supporting cast, the film had all the concepts of Howard Hawks' quality: vigor in action, reality as opposed to emotions and a faculty of scale...

52 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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