Thursday, Jun 2024
Director: Howard Hawks
Screenwriters: Borden Chase & Charles Schnee from Borden Chase's novel.
Length: 133 mins. B&W
Released: 1948

Red River posterOne of the best Westerns ever filmed. This "early tale of Texas" tells the story of a man's efforts to build a cattle empire on the Mexican/American frontier. He survives Comanche and Mexican land-baron threats but finds there is no market for his beef in post-civil war Texas. He must drive his herd 1000 miles north into Kansas (Texas cattle trails). In this endeavor, he is relentless in pushing both cattle and men. While independence and self-reliance are celebrated in many Westerns, tyranny- in any form- is to be fought against. Some writers have complained that Red River has too many themes and is not focused. Whatever the case, the movie is a most entertaining story of the rise, fall, and resurrection of an early Western pioneer.

John Wayne does an excellent job portraying the complex cattleman, Thomas Dunston. He is a man who will kill another for abandoning a drive and then "read over 'em" as they are buried. Montgomery Clift is Matt Garth, Dunston's adopted son. Garth is a quick draw who employs a very different type of leadership style than Dunston.

It could be said that this movie is an allegory about managing people: An autocratic style versus a fully empowered workforce. More likely, however, it is a story of tyranny vs. freedom. As well as the passing of the Texas frontier and old Mexico.

As in many Westerns, the concept of family includes those with whom you ride and who watch your back. Wayne, Brennan, and Clift are close-knit and supportive; yet when needed, feedback for improvement is given.

The movie features incredible scenes from the drive (9000 head were used in the film) and perhaps the best stampede ever filmed. Hawks captures the cattle as they roll tail and bolt.

Red River is flawless until the final showdown. It is there that it stumbles as a whining Joanne Dru tries to stop the "family" from killing each other. Regardless, the movie must be called a classic.


  • John Wayne --- Thomas Dunson
  • Montgomery Clift -- Matthew 'Matt' Garth
  • Joanne Dru ---- Tess Millay
  • Walter Brennan --- Groot Nadine
  • Coleen Gray ---- Fen
  • John Ireland ---- Cherry Valance
  • Noah Beery Jr. --- Buster McGee
  • Chief Yowlachie -- Quo
  • Harry Carey --- Mr. Melville
  • Harry Carey Jr. -- Dan Latimer
  • Mickey Kuhn --- young Matt
  • Paul Fix --- Teeler Yacey
  • Hank Worden -- Sims Reeves
  • Ivan Parry --- Bunk Kenneally
  • Wally Wales -- Old Leather
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