John Ford's exceptional and award-winning directorial work. His output is staggering: 146 films starting in the silent era through the mid 1960s. While not exclusively focusing on Westerns, he viewed himself as a storyteller of that great American frontier: "I'm John Ford. I make Westerns," he was quoted as saying. RIO GRANDE falls near the middle of Ford's career and is the last of the now-dubbed 'Cavalry Trilogy', which also included SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON and FORT APACHE.
|John Wayne sporting a mustache, with O'Hara|
|Gorgeous, strong Maureen O'Hara|
While Victor Young composed the score, the highlights for me were the songs interspersed through the movie, performed by the 'Sons of the Pioneers' western music group. They were written into the script as a regimental troupe of musicians, and when they played, the action stopped and you were treated, along with the cast, to a gorgeous bit of musical history. This added to the nostalgic tone of the film. Check out this video clip of a key scene with the musical serenade:
THEY CAME TO CORDURA
Ivan Moffat and director Rossen who had been blacklisted, this is a very different film. First, I admit to watching this for Van Heflin, clearly a current obsession, but who elevates every film he's in. This one is no exception. The star, though, is Western film hero Gary Cooper, near the end of his career. He plays an army officer who had been disgraced because of actions seen to be cowardly, and must now earn his pay by identifying those soldiers whose bravery should earn them the Congressional Medal of Honor. He's stationed with a Cavalry outfit in 1916 that is ordered to raid a hacienda in Mexico against a band of Pancho Villa's soldiers who are taking refuge there in their ongoing rebellion. The hacienda is owned by none other than Rita Hayworth, here an American ex-pat on the 'wrong' side. Ultimately, the battle is won, Hayworth's taken prisoner, and Cooper must remove several men along with Hayworth -- these men Cooper himself witnessed acting heroically, and will see that they escape from further harm to claim their award and thus be examples for all other fighting men. He's required to get this disparate group, including Heflin, Tab Hunter, Dick York, Michael Callan, and Richard Conte, back to Cordura in the U.S., and the main part of the film is their difficult journey.
|The film's theme after the opening titles|
|Rita Hayworth openly taunting her captors by pouring away liquor, as Cooper looks on|
|The men find a source of water, only to find out it's contaminated.|