Rio Grande (1950)

Rio Grande (1950)

“To my only rival — the United States Cavalry.”

A cavalry officer (John Wayne) placed on the Texas frontier to defend the state against Apache attack is distressed to see his son (Claude Jarman, Jr.) — recently denied entry to West Point — showing up as a recruit. Trooper Jeff (Jarman, Jr.) is followed by Wayne’s estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara), who has come to bring her son back home — but events quickly lead to both her brave men being needed on the front.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cavalry
  • Father and Child
  • John Ford Films
  • John Wayne Films
  • Marital Problems
  • Maureen O’Hara Films
  • Native Americans
  • Victor McLaglen Films
  • Westerns

This third entry in John Ford’s unintentionally conceived “cavalry trio” — after Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) — features John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the first of their five on-screen pairings, followed most memorably by their rocky romance in The Quiet Man (1952). Things are already pretty contentious in this earlier film, however, with the craggy environment mirroring Wayne and O’Hara’s strained marriage — apparently caused by Wayne’s extreme commitment to his career, as well as the fact that a sergeant (Victor McLaglen):

… under Wayne’s command set torch to O’Hara’s property in Shenandoah during the Civil War (!?). None of this quite makes sense as a reason for the couple’s long-standing challenges, especially when it’s so obvious they really love each other:

Indeed, the entire storyline feels like simply an excuse to show off some cool horsemanship moves and to regress into once again presenting Indians as faceless, alcoholic warriors ready to be killed off en masse.

The cinematography is gorgeous, though, especially in Blu-Ray.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Maureen O’Hara as Kathleen (nominated as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
  • John Wayne as Lieutenant Colonel Yorke
  • Bert Glennon’s cinematography

  • Fun footage of Cavalry horsemanship

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for Ford completists.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Rio Grande (1950)

  1. A once-must – as a solid entry by director Ford. As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “I’ll take you home again, Kathleen…”

    ‘Rio Grande’ (1950) Blu-ray: Certainly the work of a master filmmaker. I’d seen it once before, years ago. Not among the John Ford films most talked about, it is nevertheless a finely crafted tale, quite beautifully photographed, acted in an understated manner, and with moments of subtle humor. The blu-ray may not be among the most striking but it often affords rich detail. I found it most rewarding to revisit this film. Ford was, I guess, anxious to make ‘The Quiet Man’ and Republic Studio said ‘Ok, if you first give us another western.’ So he made this one, not as a toss-off but with care and attention to quality.

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