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Rio Grande (1950)

Passed | | Romance, Western | 15 November 1950 (USA)
A cavalry officer posted on the Rio Grande must deal with murderous raiding Apaches, his son who's a risk-taking recruit and his wife from whom he has been separated for many years.


John Ford


James Kevin McGuinness (screenplay), James Warner Bellah (Saturday Evening Post story)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke
Maureen O'Hara ... Mrs. Kathleen Yorke
Ben Johnson ... Trooper Travis Tyree
Claude Jarman Jr. ... Trooper Jefferson 'Jeff' Yorke
Harry Carey Jr. ... Trooper Daniel 'Sandy' Boone
Chill Wills ... Dr. Wilkins (regimental surgeon)
J. Carrol Naish ... Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan
Victor McLaglen ... Sgt. Maj. Timothy Quincannon
Grant Withers ... U.S. Deputy Marshal
Sons of the Pioneers ... Regimental Musicians (as Sons Of The Pioneers)
Peter Ortiz Peter Ortiz ... Capt. St. Jacques
Steve Pendleton ... Capt. Prescott
Karolyn Grimes ... Margaret Mary
Alberto Morin ... Lieutenant
Stan Jones Stan Jones ... Sergeant


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 <cryan@direct.ca>

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THE BREATHTAKING SAGA OF THE UNITED STATES CAVALRY! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Romance | Western


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

15 November 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Ford and Merian C. Cooper's Rio Grande See more »

Filming Locations:

Kayenta, Arizona, USA See more »


Box Office


$1,214,899 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Peter Ortiz (Captain St Jacques) was a Marine major in WWII serving in the OSS in France. Prior to that he was in the French Foreign Legion He was the most decorated Marine in that war. Among the medals won by Ortiz were the French Legion of Honor and the Navy Cross. His character Captain St Jacques appears to be wearing the French Legion of Honor on his uniform. See more »


The guitars in the film were far from authentic. One instrument in particular stands out: a classic pre-war Martin D-45 (manufactured between 1933 and 1942), which, by the number of frets, appears to be from 1937 or 1938. Played in this film by Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers, the D-45 is lavishly inlaid with abalone shell on all edges, front and back, plus around the soundhole. When new, it sold for a price fifty percent higher than a brand new car. As such, it would have been far out of reach for a lowly enlisted cavalryman, even if they had been available in the 1870's. The current new street price is a much more "reasonable" $8,659.00. A pre-war D-45 can sell for $250,000. See more »


Lt. Col. Kirby York: But he must learn that a man's word to anything, even his own destruction, is his honor.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »


Featured in 100 Years of the Hollywood Western (1994) See more »


Low Bridge (Fifteen Miles On the Erie Canal)
Written by Thomas S. Allen
Performed by the Sons of the Pioneers
See more »

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User Reviews

Excellent classic Western!
20 September 2006 | by jluis1984See all my reviews

Director John Ford's third and last film about the U.S. Cavalry (the others being 1948's "Fort Apache" and 1949's "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon"), "Rio Grande", was initially a minor project, done only to please the head of Republic Films, Herbert Yates, who wanted a marketable western before allowing Ford to make "The Quiet Man", a movie that in Yates' mind showed no promise (Of course, time would prove him wrong anyway). However, instead of delivering a throwaway film just to please his producers, Ford final "Cavalry film" was another step in his own evolution of the genre, as it included a new dimension to his Westerns by adding the family element to the picture.

"Rio Grande" stars John Wayne as Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke, a Union officer who has spent his time after the Civil War battling apache rebels in an Outspot in the Rio Grande. Suddenly, the life of this lonely man gives a 180° spin as he discovers that his son Jeff Yorke (Claude Jarman Jr.), whom he hasn't seen in 15 years, has joined the Cavalry and is assigned to his post. Things get even more complicated as his wife Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) arrives too in order to get her son back, and in some way, recover the family she lost when the Civil War made her husband (a Northerner) her enemy. In the middle of this family drama, troubles arise as an Apache bandit is using three tribes to create chaos, and Yorke will have to decide between his two loves: the Cavalry or Kathleen.

Like the previous two Cavalry stories, "Rio Grande" was based on a story by James Warner Bellah, and despite sharing many elements with the past two films (like members of the cast and some character names), the three stories are not tied together and are basically stand alone films joined by a common theme. The story is more oriented to drama rather than to action, although it still gives the characters a chance to show off their riding skills. The element of the family adds a new dimension to Wayne's character, and the theme of division between families because of the Civil War is a nice touch that adds to the sexual tension between the main characters. The tag line reads "John Ford's Greatest Romantic Triumph" and this time it doesn't lie, this Western is a powerful melodrama that plays a different tune than other westerns.

Despite being a "minor" project, John Ford shows off his great talent turning this small modest movie into a wonderful film of epic proportions. His trademark cinematography shines in all its splendor and portrays Monument Valley with an unnatural beauty, and he keeps his film as historically accurate as possible (despite the use of some recently composed songs). The portrayal of the Native Americans, so demonized this days, it's actually realistic for its time, and Ford makes sure that it's stated that the Apaches are not evil per se, but leaded by a criminal rebel. His familiar themes like honor, sacrifice and responsibility (and being torn by them), are all present here, making a powerful and entertaining Western that even non-fans of the genre can appreciate.

I'm not very familiar with John Wayne, but in my opinion his performance was very good. His character is torn between the love he feels for his country and the love he feels for his family, and the guilt he feels for his actions during the Civil War makes him even more interesting; as if behind the macho image were a loving man tied by his duties. Maureen O'Hara is wonderful as Kathleen, and makes the perfect match for Wayne's troubled hero, my only complain would be that she looks a bit too young for the part. Ford regulars like Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. also appear in supporting roles and have remarkable scenes (specially Johnson).

"Rio Grande" is a remarkably well-done film, mixing drama and action it definitely makes up for an entertaining evening. Most people (me included) have a certain prejudice towards pre-60s Westerns; while it's true that Westerns used to portray Native Americans in a bad light, one has to judge the films according to the times when they were done, and John Ford's Western are no exception (in fact, he seems to portray them in a relatively fairer way than other directors). While maybe outdated by today's standards, "Rio Grande" is definitely a masterpiece of the genre that deserves a chance before passing judgment over it.

Before watching "Rio Grande" I was not really familiar with John Ford's career (or John Wayne's), so I'm not biased towards the man and his work. "Rio Grande" has some problems, its true, but it's miles ahead of other Westerns of its time and is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in the history of cinema. 8/10

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