Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Saddle Up

Howard Hawk’s 1959 western, Rio Bravo, written by screenwriting pros Leigh Bracket and Jules Furthman, was denigrated upon the time of its release, faulted for its leisure pacing, limited setting, and overall quirkiness. It’s gained a rep as one of the strongest (and strangest) Hollywood westerns as the years have progressed, cited by film mavens like Truffaut, Scorsese and Tarantino, serving as the basis for John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), while the great Hawks liked it enough to basically remake it twice as Rio Lobo (1970) and El Dorado (1967). The casting and character names are transcendentally loony: John T. Chance (John Wayne), Dude (Dean Martin), Colorado (Ricky Nelson), Stumpy (Walter Brennan), and don’t forget Feathers (Angie Dickinson). The action (when it intermittently appears) is staged in crisp Hawksian style, the dialogue crackles with cornpone asides, and the film features one of my all time fave movie moments—Martin, Nelson, and Brennan combining their diverse (Does that term quite cover it?) talents and delivering a jailhouse musical revelry “My Rifle, My Pony, and I”. The newly released DVD (a $40 box) includes a remastered print, commentary from the aforementioned Carpenter and a documentary from critic/historian Richard Schickel--an absolute must for Hawks followers or Western buffs.


Scotty D said...

Geez, Louise, ain't anybuddy out there? Let's tawk about the wild, cinematic west. My top ten westerns (at the moment)with no directorial repeats:
1. The Searchers
2. The Wild Bunch
3. Red River
4. The Naked Spur
5. Ride Lonesome
6. Shane
7. High Noon
8. The Unforgiven
9. The Magnificent seven
10. Dead Man

Charlie Drago said...

The single most overlooked influence on John Ford was Frederick Remington.

Just watch "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" -- one scene that stands out for its Remington-esque framing finds Captain Brittles emerging from his quarters on his last day of active duty. Dig the tethered horse, the hoary breath.

Then there's the scene at the river, as Wayne/Brittles oversees the defensive perimeter at the crossing.

You left this masterpiece off your list, Scottso.

But don't apologize. It's a sign of weakness.

Giovanni Martini

Charlie Drago said...

Lesser lights/guilty pleasures:

"Ulzana's Raid" (Burt Lancaster in a Major Dundee-esque (only better) romp.

"The Charge at Feather River"

"They Died with Their Boots On" (Flynn IS Custer -- the best yet)

"Fort Apache" (Custer in costume. Why can't a great Little Bighorn film be made? Wait a minute ... I'm on that as I write: "Weir Point" ... wait for it.)

"Yellowstone Kelley" (I told you: guilty pleasures don't get any guiltier than Kookie Byrnes in the wilderness. Was this a "Brokeback Mountain" of its time, with the barely disguised homoeroticism of Byrnes and Clint Walker sharing a log cabin? Warner Brothers stablemates in action, including "Lawman" Russell!)

"Chuka" (Luciana Paluzzi -- oh baby -- can die in my arms any time. Alas, Rod Taylor beat me to her, but I was only 12.)

"Jeremiah Johnson" (Damn near perfect. Redford, in the title role, comes across a guy buried up to his chin and asks, "The Indians do this to you?"

"Tweren't the Mormons!")


Charlie Drago said...

And while I'm not shutting up:

Senta Berger ("Major Dundee") and Luciana Paluzzi ("Chuka") showing up in similarly conceived and executed Westerns absolutely hardens me.

Remember the latter from "Thunderball"??? Fiona, baby.

Man ... Senta, the square-jawed Prussian angel ... proof that Botticelli spent time in Bonn.

And Luciana, northern Italian, ripe with the scents of earth and sea ...

Sorry. Was that out loud?

Seriously ... Sorry. Was that out loud?

Methinks more than coincidence is at work here.

How do I work Charlize Theron into "Weir Point"?


mdoggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mdoggie said...

I love that "...don't apologize..." line. I could never have remembered it came from "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" but I think of it as quintessential John Wayne. Scott, I'm very happy to see "Dead Man" on your list and I know that it's up against some serious classic contention, but "The Unforgiven" should be moved up a notch or two. At our local superstore I just saw the DVD for "The Magnificent Seven" TV show, which I knew absolutely nothing about.

skylolo99 said...

Let's not forget the nifty piece of acting Dino does in Rio Bravo, acting all vulnerable and shit. He sure looked like he was at least considering reaching into the spitoon for that slimy siver dollar. My Darling Clementine would be in my top ten (+) along with all those mentioned above.
Heck Ramsey

Scotty D said...

Hovering just under the top ten, some directorial repeats, some cultish, some just short of greatness, some just plain solid as the proverbial Monument Valley rock:
Once Upon a Time in the West
McCabe and Mrs Miller
The Missouri Breaks
OneEyed Jacks
The Professionals
Ulzana's Raid
High Plains Drifter
The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Rio Bravo
My Darling Clementine
Little Big Man
Johnny Guitar
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Ride the High Country
The Man From Laramie
3:10 to Yuma
The Shootist
The Beguiled
Comanche Station
vera Cruz
Pat Garret and Billy the Kid
The Long Riders
...and that's the short list

john k said...

Thanks for mentioning my favorite Spaghetti Western-Once upon a Time in The West.

Charlie Drago said...

So ...

Given its proximity to Federal Hill, should the highest high rise hotel in Providence be referred to as the Spaghetti Westin?