Saturday, September 12, 2009

Red River

Red River is the fictional story of the first cattle drive from Texas along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas. This 1948 black-and-white film stars John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

Walter Brennan has a prominent role as a chuck wagon cook. He is irascible, eggs on Wayne and Clift when they are fighting each other (at the end of the movie), and even has a name--Groot--all of which reminds me of his work in 21 Days to Tenstrike. In fact, his work in that episode seemed like a reprise of his role in Red River and I wonder if he consciously drew on how he played Groot in the movie for how he played Gant on ASJ.

Noah Beery, Jr. (Something to Get Hung About) and Paul Fix (The Day They Hanged Kid Curry, Night of the Red Dog, Only Three to a Bed) co-star but if one didn't know they were in the movie, it might be hard to recognize them since Red River was made more than twenty years before ASJ.

About forty-seven minutes into the movie, there's a scene with the chuck wagon in the right background with men sitting around a campfire in the foreground, and a man carrying a saddle walks into the frame from stage right--it was so similar to the scene in 21 Days to Tenstrike that I went and watched the ASJ episode again to compare.

Although I liked the movie, it did seem to drag on; perhaps that was intentional and was designed to mimic the tedium of a three-month long cattle drive! I also didn't care for love-interest Joanne Dru's character; she was too melodramatic for my taste. And I found the music score, by Dmitri Tiomkin, who composed the music for so many great Westerns, to be intrusive here, as it frequently telegraphed how viewers were supposed to feel about what they were watching.

The scenes of all the cattle as they were driven across the land and through rivers was very impressive and made me wonder how the director managed to film them. Not far into the movie, one of the other characters makes a remark that I found very amusing, but I can't decide if Kid Curry or Hannibal Heyes would be more likely to say it: "You know... There are only two things more beautiful than a good gun: a Swiss watch or a woman from anywhere." Watch the movie and let me know what you think!