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Red River (1948)

Approved  |   |  Action, Adventure, Romance  |  17 September 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 20,168 users  
Reviews: 157 user | 89 critic

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.)
Chief Yowlachie ...
Quo (as Chief Yowlatchie)
Teeler Yacey
Mickey Kuhn ...
Matt - as a Boy
Ray Hyke ...
Walt Jergens
Hal Taliaferro ...
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


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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?


Howard Hawks originally wanted Gregg Toland as his director of photography. When Toland proved unavailable, he had to go with Russell Harlan instead. See more »


The trail would not go near any mountains. See more »


Sims Reeves: Well, I don't like to see things goin' good or bad. I like 'em in between.
See more »


Referenced in Kill the Irishman (2011) See more »


Settle Down
Written by Dimitri Tiomkin
Played during the opening credits
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Epic Cattle Drive
19 July 2006 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Dimitri Tiomkin's thunderous score sets the tone for this rousing story of cowboy ranchers in nineteenth century Texas headed north, with a thunderous herd of cattle in tow. It's the archetypal story of the American West, with its strong, ethical male leader, Thomas Dunson (John Wayne), and his pursuit of a big dream, set in an era when men were men, times were tough, hardships were inevitable, guns ruled, and Native Americans were the bad guys. What a saga ...

What makes "Red River" such a grand adventure is its high quality. Its story is simple, direct, exciting, and well told, with complex characters, interesting and sympathetic because they show weakness as well as strength. Dunson is a good man, but he's stubborn and headstrong. His semi-adopted son, Matt (Montgomery Clift), is good with a gun but a little softhearted. Dunson's chief sidekick is Groot (Walter Brennan), a cantankerous old buzzard who has problems with his teeth.

It's the relationship between these three men that is the heart and soul of "Red River". Trouble ensues along the way, you can be sure. And how that trouble unfolds and plays out presents viewers with engaging human drama, and humor, centered on these three main characters. The lonesome High Plains, with all its inherent risks, adds grandeur to the epic story.

At strategic points in the film, the page of a book appears on screen with text that briefly summarizes upcoming events. It's like we, the viewers, are reading a book about some long ago trailblazers. It's a technique that could have been intrusive. But here, it is handled with such finesse that it actually helps the narrative, by functioning as a transition from one sequence to the next.

The acting is fine. John Wayne is more than convincing as Dunson. Walter Brennan is characteristically funny. And Montgomery Clift is terrific. Had he maintained his looks, and if real-life circumstances not intervened, Monty could have been one of the truly top actors through at least the 50s and 60s.

If the film has a weakness, it might be the cinematography. Not often, but at times, the actors appear to be standing in front of a canvas, an effect that renders a shallow depth of field. Maybe this was the result of technical limitations of photography at the time the film was made.

There are few film westerns that can compare in quality with "Red River". And I don't know of any other cinematic cattle drives that are this good. So, the next time you herd your cattle to market, this is the film to watch. Even if you have no cattle, "Red River" is still a wonderfully entertaining cinematic experience.

24 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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