Red River (Hawks/1948)


(John Welles) #1

Often said to be among the greatest American westerns ever made, I find this film to be very disapointing. After a rather poor start, it builds up into a pretty good movie, with nicly handled action squences, with John Wayne acting against type and playing a bad-guy. But, them comes the ending. No climatic shootout, no savage duel, just a quick punch around with the Duke and his “adopted” son, Montgomery Clift, interrupted by a very annoying woman, played by Joanne Dru, who tells them to stop fighting and make up. And thats it. Talk about anti-climatic?


(scherpschutter) #2

Haven’t seen it in ages

I remember I liked it, but somehow I never went back to it
Montgomery Clift is a favourite actor of mine, btw


(Stanton) #3

Mostly a great western. But not one of my favourites.

A few too much studio shots, a few cliches, a bit too much of the weak Hollywood humour. I think the anti climatic ending is something special, and works in this film very well.


(Chris_Casey) #4

I pretty much agree with Stanton on this one. It isn’t one of my favorites, by a long shot; but, I understand why it is important to the Western genre and where some people would see it as a classic.


(John Welles) #5

Why do you think this? The fist-fight isn’t very well staged and it feels very strained, as if the studio had forced the ending (which of course they hadn’t).


(Stanton) #6

Haven’t seen it for years. My memory would say that the fistfight was well staged. And the scenes which build up to the fight were also well directed.

The ending wasn’t in the screenplay, which indeed had a duel with Dunson’s death, but Hawks preferred it this way. I call it anti-climatic because the duel would have been the logical ending. But I think it doesn’t look like one of these compromise endings. It works in the context of Red River.


(John Welles) #7

I would have prefered a duel. The film shows us how nasty John Wayne’s character is, and then just lets it go and everyone foregives each other. Not very satisfying.


(kit saginaw) #8

I gotta agree with everybody. I really didn’t get the ‘if you sign-on to the cattle-drive, you’re not allowed to quit’ premise. It was like Captain Ahab, or something. It was a treacherous trek for a narrow-window-of-time (1860-1880), but people were leaving and joining cattle-drives all the time. -Plus cattle will drive themselves. Just keep them upwind of water.

I like the movie because of Brennan, though he basically vanished in the finale. The ending was also weakened by the non-fatal/fatal shooting of Ireland and a rather unrealistic fistfight. Clift could’ve simply thrown the check at Wayne. Theoretically; it was 10,000 cows multiplied by 15-dollars… $150,000, in 1867-ish terms. The fight didn’t make sense.


(Gringo!) #9

A potential classic ruined by a weak ending. John Wayne should have shot dude then slapped the woman in the face, then turning around and shooting an objector in the chest then saying “anyone else got any big ideas?”

Last shot John Wayne is handed a bag of money and rides off laughing.

I really liked the stampede scene… eh…


(ION BRITTON) #10

Saw this one today. All good except for the ending which was pretty much lame. Wayne gathers 10-12 men and is after Clift for whole weeks with the sole intent to kill him, but when they meet they only exchange a few punches and at the words of reason of a woman they both drop it. A man like Wayne wouldn’t listen to a thing from anyone at that moment, especially from a woman whom he knows only for a few days. It doesn’t make sense. Disappointing.

Also, and if I got that right, Clift got $50000 from the company owner. He said that he initially had 9000 cattle, losing somewhere like 700 during the drive and therefore reaching Abilene with 8300. That’s approx $6 a head. He was offered $20 at first but he said that he’d think about it, meaning that the price could be higher. If I got it right he should have earned at least $160000. He got only 1/3 of that amount - simply wasn’t worth all that hassle, dear Montgomery :stuck_out_tongue:


(Stanton) #11

Frankly said, I think that the ending is not only made against audience expectations (which in that case means a happy ending), but it is also quite realistic. Or at least not unrealistic.

Wayne hasn’t become a real baddie.
He has become nasty by the circumstances, he became a hard man, and he bears a grudge in him, but he also realises inside him that he probably was wrong. This could turn in “real life” still into a killing, but all Wayne needs is a reason not to shoot, and this reason he got when Clift denies the duel.
I think this ending is as believable, as the one would be in which one of them got killed in a duel, which would be of course Wayne (unless Corbucci was the director).
But as this Wayne-dies-for-his-sins ending is the usual one, and as I’m sure that was connected in the screenplay with a Wayne-dies-in-the-arms-of-Clift-but-not-before-finding-redemption-for-his-sins ending, I’m quite glad Hawks chose the one he used.

I liked Red River more than ever when I re-watched it a few weeks ago. It really is a great film with beautiful scenes and lots of typical Hawks dialogues and situations. 9/10


(Yodlaf Peterson) #12

For me John Wayne = Avoid.


(ION BRITTON) #13

Don’t forget that he was on the verge of killing three of his own men twice. The first time he would have done it if it wasn’t for Clift. The second time he said that he would hang two of them and judging from the psychological condition he was in at that moment I’d say that he would have done it. After some point Wayne seemed unable to control himself and he became more and more tyrannical even to the best and most faithful of his men. Why that changed so suddenly in the end doesn’t make sense to me.


(Stanton) #14

Well, he had a lot of time for thinking between losing the herd and facing Clift. And there is this scene in which he speaks with the girl. This scene shows that he finds back to the man he was before.


(ION BRITTON) #15

He still had gathered a bunch of men on his side. And after that he was on Clift’s trail for lots of days passing through dangerous indian territories and stuff. You don’t do such things if you’re not determined to do something and especially if you feel you’re wrong inside. That’s what I believe, anyway.


(chameleon) #16

You may not like John Wayne, but he made some good westerns, imo.


(John Welles) #17

For me, the ending to Red River is a massive turn-off that I find impossible to overlook. After what has gone before, it is a huge let-down. Realistic or not, it doesn’t feel right as it is.


(scherpschutter) #18

If you avoid John Wayne altogether, you’ll die without having watched:

Rio Bravo
The Man who shot Liberty Valence
Fort Apache

All three Top 10 Westerns

You’ll also miss:

The Searchers, El Dorado, Big Jake, True Grit, The Horse Soldiers, Rio Lobo, The Comancheros, The War Wagon, The Dark Command, The Sons of Katie Elder, Angel and the Badman, The Big Trail, The Shootist

All very enjoyable westerns


(John Welles) #19

Hardly essential Westerns for me; True Grit and The Comancheros are good but not classic material. The former is mainly remembered for Wayne’s Oscar - the film itself is pretty average stuff. The latter is, for me, only really memorable for Lee Marvin’s great, all-too-short role. I struggled to get through Angel and the Badman.


(ENNIOO) #20

Have viewed alot of John Wayne westerns in the past, but do not have the desire to view his westerns these days. Maybe some day…