Thursday, January 7, 2010

a drunk and a cripple

I found the movie 'Rio Bravo' (1958) in the new $4.00 bin at Wal-Mart a few nights ago.  Among the $4.00 DVD finds were 'God's & Generals' and 'Last Man Standing'.  How cool is that?

Last night I watched Rio Bravo for the first time in a long time.  The disc was released by TCM, and ol' Ted was more than generous with plenty of special features.  Among the Special Features was an interview with Howard Hawks who talked about his entire career.

In the interview Hawks revealed that Rio Bravo was a response to Fred Zinnemann's  'High Noon' (1952).  Both Howard Hawks and John Wayne did not like the idea of a sheriff (played by Gary Cooper) going around begging townspeople for help when the bad guys were coming to town.  There is a scene in Rio Bravo where Ward Bond's character tries to offer help to John T. Chance (John Wayne).  At that point in the picture, all Chance had standing with him was his alcoholic friend (played by Dean Martin) and an old man with a bad leg (played by Walter Brennan). Chance refused help from his friend, even though he was out numbered.  Chance wanted seasoned professionals - not well meaning amateurs that would just get themselves killed.  Chance opted for professionals - in spite of their obvious disadvantages.

Another difference is that 'High Noon' used tons of close-ups.  It is after all the movie that Sergio Leone was heavily influenced - started using all those extreme close-ups for his spaghetti westerns.  Howard Hawks used very few close-ups in Rio Bravo - two in fact.  Both movies are polar opposites in approach - yet both movies I consider pretty darn good.

High Noon wasn't the only movie to influence Sergio Leone. Leone requested Ennio Morricone to compose "Dimitri Tiomkin music" for 'A Fist Full of Dollars'.  If you remember, it was the haunting sounds of the trumpet being played down the street at the cantina in Rio Bravo - the same lone texture applied to the dollar films.

Another interesting thing about this film is that even though this is a John Wayne vehicle - the story evolves around his right hand man Dude (Martin).  In Rio Bravo, bigger than life John Wayne, plays a supporting role in a movie in which he has top billing. John T. Chance gives his old friend The Dude a second chance.  Chance pushes his friend to sober up so he can man up to a tough predicament.  There's a lot of tough love going on in this picture.  It's recovery the cowboy way.
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