Monday, June 4, 2007

Rio Grande

Rio Grande; Western, USA, 1950; D: John Ford, S: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Ben Johnson, Claude Jarman Jr., Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen

Lieutenant Kirby Yorke is faithfully defending the fortress Rio Grande where new soldiers are being trained. But among the volunteers is also his son Jeff whom he hadn't seen for 15 years. Jeff gets into a fight and regards his father only as his lieutenant. Another visitor in the fortress is Kathleen, Kirby's wife, who wants to bail Jeff out of the army for 100 $, but Jeff doesn't want to hear about it. When in a nearby town Indians take children as hostages, Kirby's unit rescues them while Jeff gets a medal.

John Ford actually made westerns almost as a Utopia - the stories mirrored the nostalgic image of melancholic times where good people were only good, and bad only bad, and where loyalty and friendship meant more than cynicism and egoism. But also at the same time they stumbled upon black and white characterization, mostly in portraying Indians as only bad. "Rio Grande" isn't one of Ford's best achievements, like the legendary western "The Searchers", but even it's anemic scenes have more charm and spirit than many modern Hollywood films. The best parts on the other hand are actually childishly humorous - for instance, when the young Jeff (a very good Claude Jarman Jr., who even overshadows John Wayne at times) spontaneously jumps and rides on two horses simultaneously, putting one foot on each settle. One young man always speaks "Yo" instead of "Yes", while in one scene, during an ambush, Jeff accidentally fires a shot that narrowly passes by the rear end of his colleague, while a lying horse is used as a shield. Undoubtedly an interesting and rich film (even without bizarre statements from some that a UFO can be seen in the background in a scene where Wayne is talking to Maureen O'Hara), with passionate reconstruction of the past times and events, but also a one that lacks a more developed relationship between father, mother and son.


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