Quick recap: It’s Mutiny on the Bounty but with cowboys.
Fun (?) fact: John Ireland, who played Cherry Valance, originally had a much bigger part in the movie but due to unprofessionalism barely had any scenes in the final cut.
My thoughts: Despite having hated Shane, I vowed to not let it taint the western movie genre for me. Red River is already a step in the right direction for two reasons: 1) it has John Wayne, whom I have never seen act before (I KNOW) and 2) there are no creepy ‘Village of the Damned’ children. Score!
Before I start, let me first explain that I was going to make this post all about the flirting going on between Montgomery Clift’s character (Matt) and John Ireland’s character (Cherry Valance). Imagine many witty Gay Cowboy jokes, maybe with a few cleverly placed Brokeback Mountain references for good measure. But in researching Red River, I learned that Clift was most definitely gay in real life and the director (as well as everyone else) was well aware of it. That joke about comparing gun sizes? Totally intentional. And now I’m embarrassed for neglecting my 1940’s gossip magazines, or I would’ve already known this fact. 70 year old scandal is the best kind of scandal, you know.
Red River, for the most part, exceeded my expectations. On the surface, it was a fun western with all the tropes you would expect to see: damsel in distress, negative portrayal of native americans, cowboys being macho and ‘manly’. But I liked how John Wayne’s character brought in some deeper themes. I don’t know much about John Wayne (I KNOW), but I always thought he played the ‘good guy’. Actually, I still don’t really know if he is considered the ‘good guy’ in this movie because he has a fondness for killing people. Like, he just does it without thinking. I laughed out loud in the beginning of the film when there is a time jump to show how much Thomas Dunsan’s (John Wayne) ranch has grown and you can see a whole graveyard of people he has apparently killed and buried over the years. He’s just so nonchalant about it which seems kind of evil, but he always buries the victims and reads out of a Bible so in the eyes of other cowboys, he isn’t so bad.
I also appreciated that the movie didn’t just put the cowboys in situation after situation, even though the cattle drive was perilous. There were dangers, sure, but most of the conflict came between the men themselves. But there was also an ‘indian raid’ and stampede (caused by a cowboy stealing sugar) so the action was plenty intense.
Final review: 4/5. Close to a 5 but I have hope that there are even better westerns out there for me to see
Up next: Nashville