John Wayne -- showing off a darker side to his screen persona than we'd previously seen -- portrays Thomas Dunson, a frontiersman who, with his longtime partner Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), abandons a westbound wagon train in 1851 to make his future as a rancher in Texas. Doing so forces him to abandon Fen (Colleen Gray), his fiancee -- and when she is killed in an Indian raid a short time later, it taints any good that Dunson might find in the future he carves out for himself, destroying any joy he might derive from life ...
John Wayne -- showing off a darker side to his screen persona than we'd previously seen -- portrays Thomas Dunson, a frontiersman who, with his longtime partner Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), abandons a westbound wagon train in 1851 to make his future as a rancher in Texas. Doing so forces him to abandon Fen (Colleen Gray), his fiancee -- and when she is killed in an Indian raid a short time later, it taints any good that Dunson might find in the future he carves out for himself, destroying any joy he might derive from life. The sole survivor of the raid is Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn), a young orphan who is unusually handy with a gun for one his age -- and already knows how to channel his grief and horror at what he's seen, as much as Dunson does. Dunson informally adopts Matt as his son, and over the next 14 years he builds up one of the largest ranches in the entire state of Texas. And all of it is worth nothing, a result of the economic ruin wrought on the state in the aftermath of the Civil War. Matthew (Montgomery Clift), now back from the war and doing some of his own adventuring, finds a darker, more taciturn Dunson than he's ever known -- as Groot tells it, he's afraid because he just doesn't know how to fight the threats he now faces. With Matthew now returned, Dunson decides to move his herd, nearly 10,000 head of cattle, to Missouri, where there is a market for beef, over 1000 miles away through territory controlled by border gangs hundreds of men strong that have stopped every cattle drive up to now, and Indians who have picked off what the gangs missed. Dunson drives his men as hard as he does himself, relentlessly, till even some of his best hands break under the strain -- and he's not above killing anyone who challenges his authority on the drive. He's able to hold them in line as long as Matthew backs him up, and he does until Dunson, exhausted and worn down by lack of sleep, finally goes too far. Matthew steps in, backed by laconic, smirking gunman Cherry Valance (John Ireland) and most of the rest of the men and takes the herd from Dunson. Leaving his father and mentor behind, he heads the herd toward Kansas, where -- so the men are told -- there's a new railroad. Along the way, he meets Tess Millay (Joanne Dru), a card-dealer who falls in love with the young man. But he has to finish the drive and leaves her behind, much as Dunson left Fen. And they all know that Dunson is coming after Matthew to kill him. Bruce Eder, Rovi
During the quarantine, I have been watching several classic American westerns. When I turned to watch "Red River", the famous 1948 western directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, I was surprised to find my choice supported by an unusual source. I found an online article in "The Atlantic" dated March 30, 2020 by David Sims titled "Escape from Quarantine with a Western Movie: The best genre for the age of social distancing is one full of gorgeous scenes of the great outdoors." Sims recommends "Red River" because it is shot almost entirely outdoors with broad spacious scenery on a 1000 mile cattle drive from Texas to Abilene, Kansas -- a fictitious account of the first cattle drive on the storied Chisolm Trail. Sims writes on the sheer value of seeing the broad expanse of the United States while most people are cooped up inside. He notes the wonderful opportunity afforded to move from our "hermetic homes to a landscapes that are wild, exposed, and boundless." Sims also discusses briefly the story of "Red River" with "the extreme mentality required on the American frontier." I was glad to see an article in the national media praising the Western and "Red River" in particular as a proper antidote to the quarantine.
"Red River" is a masterful film that appears on virtually every list of best westerns and best films. The film tells of Thomas Dunston, an ambitious and stubborn individual leaving a wagon train and his true love to take his chances establishing a ranch in Texas. When hs leaves and is out of range to help, Indians attack the wagon train, killing his love. Dunston moves on without looking back. He takes a young boy, a survivor from the attack, under his wing, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift in his first film role). Fourteen years later, with 10000 cattle but no money, Dunston takes his cattle on a long drive to Missouri. Matt Garth has grown up and returned from the Civil War and has also, apparently, received an education. The movie describes the long, eventful cattle drive north and the tensions that develop between Dunston, set in his ways, and his adopted son.
The film portrays the tension that develops between father and son as Dunston becomes tyrannical, endangering his men, the cattle and himself. Garth eventually mutinies and wrests control of the journey from his father. There is ultimately a fearful but defused reunion between father and son as the cattle are sold, the west is developed, and the United States grows and prospers through the initiative and courage of its people.
As "The Atlantic" article suggests, this film is inspiring for the setting and scenery alone, with the crags, large plains, and rivers to be crossed, physically and symbolically. The film is also a story of the conflict between generations, the development and nature of America and much more. The movie includes a ravishing musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin which brings out the best in the scenery, acting, and story.
I have been interested in the western genre of film and novels for some time and am glad to have the opportunity to explore "Red River" and other classic western films. The best western films show a complexity in character development and a thoughtful portrayal of the United States and its promise that belie stereotypes of the genre. They offer material for thought and encourage understanding of our country. In addition, they show the majesty and varied character of our land and people. A great deal has been written about "Red River" and about other classic westerns, and, in addition to watching the movies themselves, I have been enjoying reading and learning about the many different interpretations and ideas these films inspire.
Apr 27, 2013
The Movie Red River
A National Classic. Have viewed many times, never owned it. Now I have added it to my movie
collection, although it is a VHS edition. If you like classic Westerns, the Duke and the rest of the cast members, and a great story line, you must own this movie. Available, if I recall from Alibris in both VHS and DVD versions. B&W with brilliant and sharp scene contrasts of the best possible western scenery. Alibris has the best prices, and most dependable dealers.
Jan 20, 2011
Saw this years ago and liked it. When it was available to purchase did so. Tape was in good condition and arrived on time.