John Wayne has become such an icon of American machismo that it can be hard to approach any of his movies objectively now. Most of them are just vehicles for his raging testosterone, anyway. But there are a few keepers in the bunch, and this is one of them.
Here, he's a small town sheriff who must hold off a vicious gang who are trying to break one of their members out of jail. His only help are the town drunk (Dean Martin), an inexperienced kid (Ricky Nelson) and a crippled old-timer (Walter Brennan). There's a good story, taut pacing, some comedy and plenty of suspense. Wayne even tones down his swagger and lets his costars (which include Angie Dickinson, Ward Bond and Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez) have plenty of room to do their thing. The only misstep is a studio-ordered musical interlude for Martin and Nelson, but that's easy to overlook.
Another triumph from director Howard Hawks, this film grabs you from the very first, wordless scene and doesn't let go.
"Let's make some noise, Colorado!" (Quentin Tarantino has often cited "Rio Bravo" as one of his favorite films. It's such a favorite, in fact, that he borrowed this line for his original script for "Natural Born Killers," and it's one of the few bits of his dialogue that survived the Oliver Stone rewriting machine to make it into the finished film.)
Although it's a western, the script was cowritten by legendary sci-fi author Leigh Brackett, whose other movie credits include "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "The Big Sleep" (1946).
"High Noon" (1952).
Take a Look:
Walter Brennan cracks 'em up:
That darn song (which, for the record, is "My Rifle, My Pony and Me":