For Reel

Red River (1948)
June 12, 2015, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Howard Hawks
4.5 Stars
Red RiverEarly in Red River, Tom Dunson (John Wayne) claims a piece of land with a blatant disregard for its previous owner, suggesting that the man probably stole it from a Native American and therefore he has an equal right to take it for himself. He seems stubborn and foolish, but ultimately very “John Wayne” in the traditional sense–heroic and unbent in his will to keep pushing forward. Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn in the earliest scenes) stands by his surrogate father, only then fourteen years pass and Garth (now Montgomery Clift) has fought in the Civil War and the southern economy is spoiled by carpetbaggers from the north. In just over a decade, Dunson’s strong-armed form of self-governing seems like a relic from the past, only further amplified by his childish attacks at anyone who questions his authority. Red River is one of the great classic Hollywood films about the passing of the torch between generations, the surety of one’s offspring ultimately eclipsing them. It’s also, as James Agee pointed out, a terrifically “physical” movie–that is, one that so thoroughly creates the realism of a way of life and the efforts that were undertaken to make the cattle migration happen. Howard Hawks does this both through his obsession with showing the sheer physical force of the herd traversing land and water, as well as with some expertly conceived camera tricks that triple the number of cattle that were actually on hand.

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