Red River(Howard Hawks) 1948 **** 5/26/2016

The opening titles of this picture sets a craggy tone, with the credits over a craggy drawn landscape resting on top of buttes bursting from the ground below.  Dunson(John Wayne) plays the familiar character, hewn from the country and with the intention of mastering it.  He raises cattle for fourteen years from land he claims, and in that time grows up Garth(Montgomery Clift), who Dunson took in at the beginning of the venture wandering ashen faced away from an Indian raid that also killed Dunson’s girl.  In a make or break cattle drive, he sets out for Missouri, a thousand miles away to find a market for his overflowing herds.  Dunson is set back by a stampede and boiling resentment from his men.  The pressures turn him into a tyrant, and he is wrong and harsh.  Like on a ship with a broken sail on a heaving, roiling sea, the crew mutinies, led by a decisive Garth before Dunson can hang two men who try to desert.  Even Dunson’s stalwart Groot(Walter Brennan) joins Garth.  They drive the cattle into Kansas towards an alternate railroad they’ve heard of, with the revenant old man in the back of their mind, his vow to kill Garth in their ears.  On the way they rescue a wagon train from Comanches and Garth finds a girl.  The scales are balanced between the old man & the young in Abilene with the cattle delivered.  Wayne’s performance reminds me of Bogart’s in “The Caine Mutiny,” but he is frightening where Bogart was pathetic.

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