The kindest form of flattery is imitation and there is no doubt that Rio Bravo (Tues, 5USA, 13.05) has had its fair share of successors who have pinched its main plot. John Wayne is haphazardly aided by a disparate crew in cowboyland to take on the overpowering might of a bunch of tough hombres.
And what a funny old lot help out The Duke: Dean Martin fittingly plays the drunk, Walter Brennan is the limping old duffer and, to lure in the punters, there is young Angie Dickinson (Sinatra’s flame at the time) and a fresh faced teenybopper Ricky Nelson.
The writer is Leigh Brackett whose credits include The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye among others. Not many know that she is…well…a ‘her’ who went punch for punch in noir and cowboy films with her male colleagues.
Brackett’s work with director Howard Hawks in this solid film about right v wrong was simply lifted and used again and again; in El Dorado a decade later with Wayne and Robert Mitchum, in that tongue in cheek classic Assault on Precinct 13 which itself was remade (badly) by lesser hands, and in elements of both Star Wars and The Magnificent Seven.
Hawks had the set built to 7/8 scale to make the good guys seem bigger. Wayne proved himself a major star since falling away from the public gaze after some mediocre movies – this was his first attempt at a cowboy role since The Searchers. And, in a sidebar of trivia, it was the last time that Wayne wore that trademark white ten gallon he had used in every western since Stagecoach in 1939.
Incidentally, Rio Bravo was made as a counterweight to High Noon, perceived by the right as anti-American because it showed a lawman abandoned by the small town folks. Both westerns were outright successes.
Well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.