Another rockin’ John Wayne/Walter Brennan movie, although this one seems more Westerny than Rio Bravo, what with the cattle drives and Indian attacks. Wayne is a Texas rancher who builds a cattle empire after losing his sweetie to Indians while crossing the Red River years earlier. Now he and his young protege Monty Clift (his first year in Hollywood, five years before From Here To Eternity) take a long, difficult drive north since cattle prices have crashed down south, hoping they’ll hit a railroad town before they hit bandits or Indians. The men mutiny when Wayne becomes a slavemaster, Clift takes over, and there’s a pretty badass showdown between the two at the end, culminating in a happy reconciliation.
Harry Carey Jr. (in one of his first movies) makes the mistake of talking about his lovely wife waiting at home, so he gets killed in a stampede brought on by some idiot who steals sugar from chef Brennan – the movie’s way of saying that life is meaningless. Harry Carey Sr. (in one of his last movies) plays the happy-ending cattle buyer at their destination town. And John Ireland (the coward Robert Ford in I Shot Jesse James) is set up as Clift’s big rival, then his plot thread fizzles out. IMDB says Hawks wanted Cary Grant for the part – I guess Ireland wasn’t an exciting enough player to justify adding another twenty minutes to the film. Remade in the 80’s with James Arness, Ray Walston and LQ Jones.
As usual after we watch a Hawks movie, Katy and I shared an uneasy conversation about auteurism. She accused me of being a Hawksian auteurist, but I still can’t tell a Hawks movie from, say, a Billy Wilder or William Wellman movie. I just tend to like them is all.
I shouldn’t have to look up web articles about this movie since I have the BFI Film Classics book, but it turned out to be way boring. Senses of Cinema talks up Wayne’s oedipal relationship with Clift, then Intl. Cinema Review compares Clift’s and Ireland’s competitive gunfight to an orgasm, so apparently the movie was all about sex and Katy and I didn’t realize.