Manliness is next to Godliness.

58. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)

Now that’s a fucking poster. John Wayne wasting man, woman, and child(well no children exactly) with a rifle, all while Ricky Nelson looks on approvingly. Aside from the clash of the red font for the title, and the blue font for the actors, this poster is sublime. If I saw that poster today, I would think: “John Wayne killing people? Yes please.”

Anyway this film represents a number of firsts for me. It was the first John Wayne film I ever watched, the first Howard Hawks film I knowingly watched (I watched Bringing Up Baby on TCM one time without knowing who Howard Hawks was…yes I was once a very naive and sheltered boy), and I believe it was in the first batch of films I signed out of the library when I started all this list craziness. I think High Noon and The Seventh Seal were in that batch too.

I think it might also be the first classic western I ever watched, save for High Plains Drifter (which though entertaining isn’t especially classic). My brother always tried to get me to watch the Leone westerns, but I just didn’t care. It’s only with my watching Rio Bravo that I discovered how totally bitching the western genre can be. Dudes shooting each other while acting manly is something I find entertaining.

My appreciation of the western is rooted in my appreciation of the gangster film, they both make me feel gangsta. When I watch John Wayne I live vicariously through him. He talks tough, has the occasional witty line, shoots suckers left and right, and comes out on top. That’s a combination that appeals to me.

As an aside, when I was a kid, PBS used to show an Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet marathon each Christmas, and for whatever reason I would watch it. The show wasn’t especially funny, and obviously being a 1950’s family sitcom it was sappy as hell, but I still dug it. If I have to name a reason why I watched and enjoyed it, I suppose it would be that Ricky Nelson was cool (and a hunk too!). I mean he was handsome, charming, and he played rock n’ roll, he’s like James Dean without the undercurrent of rebellion and sexual frustration.

Anyway since then I have kind of admired Ricky Nelson, I used to take his CDs out of the library, and his cocaine addiction, and death in a plane crash satisfy my interests in the seedy and the macabre. My admiration for him is such that I’ve even forgiven him for this. It’s kind of a shame he became a victim of excess, because he is damn good in the film.

Exhibit A:

John Wayne and Ricky Nelson are enough to make the movie, but then add in Dean Martin as a cowardly drunk and Walter Brennan as Walter Brennan, and you have awesomeness coming out of every pore. Such gloriously fun stuff.

I should mention that I adore Walter Brennan. I mean sure his politics made John Wayne look like a commie, and sure he cackled with delight when Martin Luther King got shot (alledgedly), but dammit he is just so much fun to watch. He is one of those actors like Edward Everett Horton, Charles Ruggles or even Guy Kibbee where you see there name in the credits and you know the film will be decent at the very least, simply because of their presence. They might have a couple lines or maybe a couple of scenes, but you know they are always going to be quality.

Awesomeness of the highest quality.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film 10/10.


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