Rio Grande takes place after the Civil War when the Union turned their attention towards the Apaches. Union officer Kirby Yorke is in charge of an outpost on the Rio Grande in which he is in charge of training of new recruits one of which is his son whom he hasn't seen in 15 years. He whips him into shape to take on the Apaches but not before his mother shows up to take him out of there.The decision to leave is left up to Trooper Yorke who decides to stay and fight. Through it all Kirby and Kathleen though separated for years fall back into love and decide that it's time to give it another try. But Yorke faces his toughest battle when his unorthodox plan to outwit the elusive Apaches leads to possible court-martial. Locked in a bloody Indian war, he must fight to redeem his honor and save the love and lives of his broken family.Written by
Christopher D. Ryan <email@example.com>
This fine film is one of the finest cavalry epics and is based on historical fact.
"Rio Grande" was the last of John Ford's cavalry trilogy, which also included "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Fort Apache". Like the latter, this film was filmed in black and white. All three films were based on short stories by James Warner Bellah.
In this film John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara first played the romantic roles that they played later in films like "The Quiet Man" and "McLintock". There is real chemistry between these two stars. Their relationship is a major thread that weaves the plots and subplots of this film together. Both of their characters have depth. O'Hara is more than her usual fiery Irish self. She is sensitive, sometimes humorous and occasionally aristocratic. She has difficulty hiding her continued affection for her estranged husband Wayne despite the fact that he was responsible for burning the family plantation. Wayne is the tough commanding officer of the remote outpost. His toughness masks a softer side. This shows clearly when he stands outside the hospital window of his son, who has a black eye from a "soldier's fight". At the end of the film he takes a father's pride in his son's courage in battle.
There is more going on in the film than in the usual Western. There are relationships. Wayne is disappointed in his son who flunked at West Point and enlisted in the cavalry as a trooper. His mother wants to buy him out of the cavalry. The son wants to prove himself. All of this contributes to some real human moments in the film. Subplots include Trooper Tyree's sometimes humorous attempts to escape the law and the sometimes unwilling help provided by others. And of course there are the Apaches.
The river is a major theme in the movie. It is a barrier which the cavalry cannot cross in their pursuit of the Apaches. This is demonstrated in the opening credits. The cavalry and Mexican soldiers meet at the river in a scene from later in the movie. When captured chiefs escape across the river Wayne meets a Mexican officer in the middle of the stream. He offers to place himself under Mexican command. The Mexican officer declines, saying he must defend the border "at all costs". Wayne responds, "With three men.. .Your dedication to duty is to be commended. I too have my orders." At the end of the film Wayne risks his career with the complicity of General Sheridan (played by J. Carroll Naish) and crosses the river to rescue the children captured by the Apaches.
The supporting cast does a wonderful job with this film. Many are regular faces in John Ford films. Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. play friends of Wayne's son (played by Claude Jarman, Jr.). Victor McLaglen plays the role of top Sergeant. He played the same role in all three films in Ford's trilogy. Chill Wills is around and is much better than usual as the doctor who helps Trooper Tyree escape from a Texas sheriff. The Sons of the Pioneers are also on hand to sing songs.
The Victor Young score includes elements which will appear later in the "Quiet Man". Many of the songs are dumb and inappropriate. There are too many Irish ballads that would have been much better used in "The Quiet Man". The few songs by Stan Jones are the best of the lot. At one point in the film the cavalrymen are walking their horses to the lyrics "twenty-four miles on beans and hay".
Photographically this film is less impressive than "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon", but the usual shots of Monument Valley are still impressive. There is an appropriate dark quality to this movie that is missing in the other films in the trilogy, even in "Fort Apache", which was also filmed in black and white. The scene at the deserted church is memorable. The black and white photography accentuates the shadows and the threat of death to the children as the Apaches dance the night away.
This film is based on a historical incident. In 1874 Colonel McKenzie led the 5th Cavalry across the Rio Grande to destroy a Kickapoo village in Mexico. The Kickapoos had been raiding quite successfully in Texas and efforts to punish them had been quite fruitless. This forgotten incident was used by Ford in this film. The Indians now are Apaches, but whoever heard of Kickapoos?
This fine Western is worth seeing for its rich characterizations and fine story. It can be enjoyed on many levels.
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