Red River (1948) Poster

(1948)

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Classic Western
marquis de cinema30 October 2000
Red River(1948) is a film that gets better with age. This was the first of five Howard Hawks/John Wayne features. Red River(1948) was Howard Hawks third straight gem right after To Have & Have Not(1944) and The Big Sleep(1946). John Wayne had come a long way from his low budget Lone Star film days.

The film is considered a Western take on The Mutiny on the Bounty. The relationship between Tom Dunson and Matt Garth is deeply complex. Although they're prepared to kill each other, deep down they still respect for one another. This relationship is based on control, idealism, respect, and trust.

It takes a fascinating look at the cattle drive during the Wild West. The film shows the responsbility that went with driving cattle across country and the different road blocks that many riders were faced with. Red River(1948) shows that the cattle drives were a cowboy's main source of work. City Slickers(1991) would do a wonderful homage to this Howard Hawks classic.

Tom Dunson, Ringo Kid, and Ethan Edwards to name a few are some of the best characters played by the duke. He exhibits here that he was a great actor as well as a great Hollywood star. Its a shame that his best performances were overlooked by by many people during his lifetime(he's definitely a superior actor compared to the likes of Stallone, Arnold, and Willis combined). It was actually filmed during 1946 but was shelved for two year due to a legal battle with Howard Hughes.

Montgomery Clift stands out on his own as Matt Garth in acting next to John Wayne. Walter Brennan is excellent in the role of Tom Dunson's sidekick. Red River(1948) was one of the best film to come out of 1948. Red River(1948) contains a trademark flirtious man-woman relationship between Matt Garth and Tess that also evident in some of the director's other works...I.E., His Girl Friday(Walter & Hildy), Ball of Fire(Potts & O'Shea), To Have & Have Not(Harry & Slim), The Big Sleep(Phillip Marlowe & Vivian Sternwood), and Rio Bravo(John T. Chance & Feathers).
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9/10
A film which is spectacle at its best , although spectacle is by no means all of it...
Nazi_Fighter_David21 November 1999
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...
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10/10
"Let's Take 'Em to Missouri."
bkoganbing18 May 2005
In the pantheon of great performances by John Wayne, Red River ranks as one of the great ones, probably in the top five of his films. It's what the publicity folks mean when they talk about epic westerns.

John Wayne is a driven man, he's got to get that gigantic herd of cattle to market in Missouri or face ruin. He's not going to be selling them in Texas at carpetbagger prices so he's putting together the biggest, longest cattle drive on record to get to the railroad terminus in Missouri. He does it with the able assistance of his stepson Montgomery Clift newly returned from the Civil War.

A prologue to the main film shows what happened to Wayne years before. He left a wagon train going to California with good friend Walter Brennan and later that train is massacred with Wayne's fiancé Coleen Gray along with it. On the way to Texas, Wayne and Brennan pick up Mickey Kuhn who is playing a younger version of Monty Clift. They settle in Texas and Wayne puts together the biggest cattle ranch in the state which is where the main film starts.

Wayne and Clift play beautifully off against each other. Father and surrogate son, first working together and then having a big difference of opinion on the cattle drive. Clift started a film career in Red River playing sensitive people who you can only trod on just so long before they take action. You can see the inner workings of such later Clift roles as Robert E. Lee Prewitt and Noah Ackerman. Monty made a grand screen debut. And it was his debut, Red River was filmed first, but held up in release and Clift's The Search was released first to the public.

John Wayne had one of the best faces for movie closeups ever. In his best performances, top directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Bill Wellman realized this. He has a few in this film and they tell the audience more about what's going on inside this man than ten pages of dialog.

With Joanne Dru, Howard Hawks tries to repeat the magic he had with Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. Joanne is no Bacall, but she's good and had a pretty good career on her own. Her scenes with both Wayne and Clift have some of the same bite that Bacall's do with Bogey.

Dimitri Tiomkin's score deserves star billing right up there with the human cast. It is one of the great movie scores of all time period. let alone in the western genre. For me I've always noticed the similarity with the cattle drive beginning with the great use of Tiomkin's music and what Cecil B. DeMille did in the sound version of Ten Commandments as Charlton Heston tells the Hebrew children, he's takin' 'em to Canaan with Elmer Bernstein's score in the background as DeMille's cast of thousands moves out. I've often wondered whether DeMille copied Hawks, or Hawks was influenced by DeMille's silent Ten Commandments.

Red River is a must, for John Wayne fans, for Monty Clift fans, for fans of both and of great movie music like I am.
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9/10
Epic Cattle Drive
Lechuguilla19 July 2006
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.
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A much neglected Classic western!
law_rie30 May 1999
I was the "first kid on the block" to purchase a VCR, way back in the late 60's...the RCA VBT200...no timer, no remote, no nothing! Paid $1200.00 for it (Canadian funds!)and ALL my friends told me I was nuts. I TRIED to tell them that, eventually, everybody would own a VCR but was shouted down. In any case, Red River was the first movie I taped and, deleting commercial breaks, I was ecstatic to have a Hollywood movie on hand to watch whenever the urge arose. And WHAT A MOVIE!!! I agree with earlier comments re John Wayne...who usually just played John Wayne. In THIS one, and "The Searchers", however, the director got one helluva performance out of the Duke. Also, the second movie performance by the tragical Montgomery Clift...so "pretty" in the Mohammed Ali sense that I virtually fell in love with him myself, even though I was a "straight" teenaged boy. From the opening credits, with that almost Wagnerian music by Dmitri Tiomkin, this movie (shot in 1946 and held 'til 1948 for release...I forget why)should be compulsory viewing for the brain-dead Hollywood moguls of today. Actually, there are no "moguls" left...they're all bottom-line money men who wouldn't know a good movie if they saw one..."Let's check the demographics, guys, and fill those multiple screen outlets with brain-dead teens (not really their fault as products of our so called progressive p.c. education system)and make a TON of money!" My age is showing...back to the movie. If you haven't seen it, be prepared for a LONG sojourn. This isn't brain candy...it's an allegorical treatise on the impetuousness of youth vs. the inflexible values of pioneer stock. In the end, BOTH are told to cut themselves some slack, by the "gun-totin" Joanne Dru. In summary, a Great Western, and to get back to the Duke, an amazing performance by a 39 year old made up to look like a 60 year old...and he pulled it off! The respect/fear combo of his hired trailhands is almost Shakespearian, and a tribute to the screenwriter/s and director Howard Hawks. If you've never seen it...do yourself a big favour and rent this little classic!
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An enjoyable western
bob the moo3 August 2003
Fourteen years ago Thomas Dunson entered Texas across Red River with two head of cattle, his trail hand, and a young boy, Matt Garth, who survived an Indian attack on a wagon train that killed Dunson's sweetheart. After years of development he is now head of a ranch and is preparing to drive his head of thousands of cattle up to Missouri for sale, despite the perils. However Dunson's brutal leadership style bucks up against the more peaceful Matt, leading to a rebellion and a splitting of the ways between Dunson and his adopted son.

With an early scene establishing both Dunson's methods (taking land by force) and the source of much of his future bitterness and rage, this film sets itself out to be a real good character piece and pretty much manages to do it. The plot sweeps across 14 years but doesn't suffer for it. The main plot device is the cattle drive, which is depicted with affection here, however the main story is the conflict between Dunson and Matt's methods and views on man management. This aspect is not given quite as much time as I had hoped and tends to be over shadowed by the scale of the cattle drive itself – however this is still good.

The weakest point here is the romance which feels tacked on at the end. Not only does it feel unnecessary but it doesn't really work very well either. To make matters worse – when the conflict between Dunson and Matt manifests itself physically, it is devalued by the involvement of Tess somewhat. Wayne's leading man is strong and is a good performance considering how unpopular he is as a character. Clift gives a balanced performance and stands up well alongside the Duke. The support cast is full of western favourites and does well to fill the story out with colour, comic relief from Brennan's chuck wagon driver is great fun.

Overall this is a good western that I felt didn't quite reach it's full potential as a film. It could have gone further with the battle of wills between the characters but instead the cattle drive takes the lion's share of screen time. Having said that, there is still plenty to enjoy with both the character clashes and the perils of the cattle drive itself.
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10/10
One of the finest movies ever--and I don't like Westerns
Myles Brooker9 January 1999
Although I have never been a huge fan of Westerns nor of John Wayne, this movie was truly excellent. My father is a true-to-life cowboy from that era and could vouch for how accurate this movie portrayed the life of a cowboy in those days. What really makes this movie is the stellar performance of Montgomery Clift as Matt Garth, brilliant though forgotten actor of the late 40's thru the mid 60's. The depth of John Wayne's acting in this movie was very refreshing. In short, this movie deserves a viewing by even the most avid loathers of Westerns.
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Benchmark Western
elgee15 November 1999
You don't have to use up too much of your imagination to get into and to appreciate this Epic, Howard Hawks does a manificent job in bringing to us a story that depicts the strengths ( and weaknesses ) of early pioneers in the American West. In Red River, Hawks clearly makes us aware of the hardships and loneliness settlers experienced doing their thing, particularly on cattle drives. John Wayne, as always in his element astride a horse, does a great job portraying the single minded cattle Baron Tom Dunson. He looked comfortable in the role with all his regulars like Harry Carey Snr. and Jnr,.Hank Worden and Walter Brennan around him and, along with Hawks is responsible for the Movie being as good as it is. You could almost taste the dust and sweat as Dunson bullies his way along the cattle drive, ignoring advice, doing what a man has to do and saying often, ' I'll read over them in the mornin ', then, being left in the dust himself after his men and his adopted son Matthew Garth...... played by Mongomery Clift.... decide they've had enough. We always knew they'd meet up with each other again, and when they did....what a showdown! Dunson catches up with them in Abeline, gets off his horse when he sees Garth and bullies his way again, this time through a herd of cattle to get to him. That walk Wayne makes amongst the cows is a classic. For a big guy he's got a lot of balance, never losing his stride as he forces his way through the herd, turns, draws and fires at Cherry Valance....played by another resident bad guy of the era, John Ireland....gets hit with a bullet from Valance, crosses the railway track then proceeds to beat up on the only man game enough to stand up to him, and in the process gets a bit of a pasting himself. Fantastic stuff!! Both Clift and Brennan, who played Dunson's old friend Groot Nadine give fine supporting roles, particularly Brennan with his excellent narrative throughout the Movie. Made in 1948, Red River is a great Western and perhaps had much to do in setting standards for others to follow.
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10/10
The last picture show
Martin Bradley31 October 2005
Some people think this is the greatest western ever made and they aren't far off the mark. It is certainly among the most expansive. Borden Chase adapted his own Saturday Evening Post story "The Chisholm Trail" but it was Howard Hawks who fleshed it out. There are some who see the relationship between Tom Dunson, (John Wayne), and his surrogate son Matthew Garth, (Montgomery Clift), as mirroring that of Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian and again that isn't too far off the mark either. Then there is the teasingly suggestive homo-erotic by-play that exists between Clift and gunslinger John Ireland, with a lot of emphasis on the affection each shares for the other's gun. But pat psychology aside the film is chiefly enjoyable for its sheer physicality. Indian attacks, gunfights, cattle stampedes and a great climatic confrontation between Wayne and Clift, it has them all.

Clift, a relative newcomer when the film came out, (it was only his second picture), is excellent. The camera loves him and he knows it. This is Clift at his most likable and laconic. But it is Wayne's tyrannical Tom Dunson who dominates every scene. It's a great piece of acting, the equal of his work in "The Quiet Man" and "The Searchers", maybe better. Those who say he was the same in every picture were surely blinkered. Given a great part like Dunson or Ethan Edwards he clearly understood the psychology of the role and what made the character tick. And for once, Dimitri Tiomkin's great score adds to, rather than detracts from, the film. Trivia time; in Peter Bogdanovitch's "The Last Picture Show" it was Hawk's "Red River" that was the last picture show.
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7/10
Great spectacle with a lousy ending
lasttimeisaw1 November 2013
Howard Hawks' western venture starring Wayne and Clift (his career debut indeed) as two plumb opposite types of men from almost every aspect, lead a mighty cattle migration in the vast prairie and notably to stride across the red river, but en route, the bigoted Thomas (Wayne) slowly loses his trust among his crew, and dissent emerges, eventually his adopted son Matthew (Clift) has to oust Thomas in order to finish their drive to the right destination, an ultimate chase from Thomas will heighten the drama to its peak.

To say nothing of the deployment of the night stampede rumpus, plainly wielding such a massive quantity of cattle is indisputably taxing for the crew meanwhile an awe-inspiring spectacle for its audiences in the primitive black and white. All along this laborious trek, there are presumable threats looming large (native Indians or borderline gangsters), but what's fatal to the solidarity is the disruption from within, Thomas is a hard-bitten fogey, his tyrannical domination of the bunch is short-sighted, but in propria persona, he is not a loathsome character (at least not as he assumes to be), he has a wound in his heart, a responsibility to shield his properties, and a paternal attachment to Matthew, so he takes the mutiny too seriously and there is a death wish in his heart to sacrifice and sublimate himself to a higher cause of love, very stupid and rather egotistic in hindsight, but probably is the fashion for the sake of manhood during the time within a tunnel vision.

However, rather interestingly Matthew represents exactly another fashion of manhood, a percipient, tender-hearted gunslinger with a slender figure and an appealing face, exuding an irresistible sex appeal which panders to meet more modern eyes. Thus the conflict can also be reckoned as a combat between these two sorts of aesthetics, yet, in my humble opinion, the biggest letdown is the hasty ending, in the brink of an eye, a gratuitous buffer (a babbling Dru) abruptly jumps into the foreground and lambastes them in a most comic way which is not align with the wholesome tone whatsoever, then everything has been miraculously resolved, what an inadequate happy ending and an overkill to all the tension amassed for almost 2 hours.

Anyway, it is a solid western picture and Wayne even proves to be a qualified thespian against a ravishing Clift, Brennan is the comic relief and Dru is literally redundant with a ridiculous and belly-laughing reaction after being shot in the shoulder by an arrow. But the most LOL reference is a tacit pun comes alive with Ireland's banter with Clift - "There is a good-looking gun you were about to use back there, can I see it? Maybe you'd like to see mine!", hell yeah, no one can resist that!
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