One of my favorite westerns has always been Rio Bravo, starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, and Angie Dickinson. Directed by Howard Hawks, it’s a bit longer than the average western, and it’s more about the characters than herding cattle or wrangling horses.
John Wayne is one of my favorites, and he’s perfect in the role of John T. Chance, the sheriff in a town that is currently on edge since Chance has just arrested a man whose family will do anything to get him out of jail.
Wayne’s portrayal is strong, as usual, and much of what he does is watch over the other characters, primarily the drunkard named Dude, played by Dean Martin. Martin might surprise some, but he was a very good actor when he wanted to be. He’s got a lot of depth here, and he plays it well.
Ricky Nelson joins the party after his boss (Bond’s character) gets killed by the bad guys. He’s super young, but he showed potential in his role. Naturally, we do get some music. How could we not with both Nelson and Martin in the cast. I actually love the couple of songs we hear. I think it adds some warmth and a chance for bonding in the film.
I’m not that wild about Dickinson, but she’s never been my favorite by any means, and her character is written in a somewhat convoluting manner in my opinion. She does a good job, but the character grates on me a little.
Brennan is a hoot in his cantankerous role, and Bond basically is the same wagon master we saw him as on TV.
Basically, it is the comraderie between the leads that I value the most. Wayne, Martin, and Nelson have real chemistry in their roles. It just works for me. It far beats out the copy of it that Hawks and Wayne made later, called El Dorado. They are the same movie with the same characterizations, just different names and a couple of different actors.
Rio Bravo is a good story with solid acting, lots of drama, and even some humor.