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Red River (1948)

Howard Hawks




127 minutes

Howard Hawks

Borden Chase
Charles Schnee

Cast includes:

Thomas Dunson John Wayne
Matthew "Matt" Garth Montgomery Clift

Nadine Groot

Walter Brennan
Tess Millay Joanne Dru


Coleen Gray -
Mr. Melville Harry Carey

Cherry Valance

John Ireland
Buster McGee Noah Beery Jr. -
Dan Latimer Harry Carey Jr. -
Two Jaw Quo Chief Yowlachie -
Teeler Yacey Paul Fix -
Sims Reeves Hank Worden -
Dance Hall Girl (uncredited) Shelley Winters -
Dunson Rider (uncredited) Richard Farnsworth -



This Western version of Mutiny On the Bounty tells of the first cattle drive on the trail now known as The Chisholm Trail, used by Texas ranchers who needed to find buyers for their overstocks of cattle in the wake of the Civil War. Set in the 1860s, Red River is all about various kinds of male relations, which would be a familiar theme for anyone in a post WWII world. And at its best, the picture is able to touch upon timeless truths in this respect, both with regards to the Dunson/Garth relation, with Dunson/Groot and with Garth/Valance (with its vague homoerotic undertones). Despite this, long portions of the film don't work, particularly in the first half. We're supposed to be in awe of the grandeur of it all, from the at times beautiful sets to the weightiness of the characters' actions, but the scenes have a staged quality that makes them drag. Only when the tension ultimately starts rising among the wranglers does the film tap into its dramatic potential and is Montgomery Clift given the latitude from which to rise above the melodrama and archetypes he is surrounded by. John Wayne, on the other hand, plays his Thomas Dunson as a whiny, obstinate little child with seemingly few conflicting emotions. Somewhat ironically, Wayne was concerned that Clift would not be able to come off as manly enough opposite him, but there's not much manly about Dunson's bitching. And then there's not much plausible about his sudden change of heart in the end. It seems all these men were suckers for a histrionic lady. Director Howard Hawks occassionally is able to accentuate the vastness of the lands and the panting of the cattle, but it's not enough to make Red River a historically important document from the West.

Copyright 28.01.2022 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang