(1948) dir. Howard Hawks, Arthur Rosson
Howard Hawks is one of the directors around which the notion of auteur theory arose. That his films showed a consistancy of vision and themes and ideas, no matter which decade or genre in which he worked. This notion of the director as “film author”, the ability to imprint on one’s work uniquely. And he certainly lives up to that.
That said, I think it has been some 6-7 years since I last saw a Hawks film, and then it was probably His Girl Friday (1940). He is noted for significant difference between his action dramas and his screwball comedies, different focal points in each. So, outside of some poorly remembered details of him and his themes, I almost didn’t approach this film from an autuerist standpoint…except, that I have had in my head this notion of watching two of his other Westerns, Rio Bravo (1959) and Rio Lobo (1970), all Hawks’ Westerns all starring John Wayne. I figured, that might be the way to go in establishing an such an approach.
That said, Red River is a very good Western from the classic era. Following a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas, there are themes of family melodrama about it. Montgomery Clift plays John Wayne’s “adopted” son. The story is more about creating legends: the noble, hard-won taking of property in Texas and raising cattle, the independent trail-blazers who “built this country”. That part of it is played straight, with Indians as killers or comedy relief. Safe to say, it’s not very politically correct.
It’s a good adventure story, but as I said, it’s also largely melodrama, which from an “action” perspective leads to a somewhat anti-climactic ending, though it’s satisfying in other ways.
It’s good stuff. Yee Haw!!