”RIO GRANDE”— A Classic Film


A Classic Film

Amos Lassen

Olive Films is releasing the Blu ray of the classic western by John Ford, “Rio Grande”, the third film in his trilogy that includes “Fort Apache (1948), “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949) and this 1950 film.

The themes in “Rio Grande” is perhaps a little diffuse yet this remains a fine film. It is full of warmth and humor whose narrative ambles from point to point. It is a strange romance starring John Wayne as Kirby Yorke, a Cavalry officer dealing with the plundering Apache as well as his disaffected, long separated wife (Maureen O’Hara) and his son (Claude Jarman Jr.) who has just enlisted. Yorke is in charge of a dusty, remote outpost on the Rio Grande, training new recruits, including the son he hasn’t seen in 15 years. He gets him into shape to take on the Apaches but his mother Kathleen shows up to get him out of there. Kirby and Kathleen fall back in love but his unorthodox plan to outwit the elusive Apaches leads to possible court martial.

Bert Glennon and Archie Stout’s beautiful black and white cinematography, Victor Young’s music score and the stars’ performances are the perhaps the main assets. There are charismatic supporting performances by Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, J Carrol Naish, Victor McLaglen, Grant Withers, Peter Ortiz, Steve Pendleton, Karolyn Grimes, Alberto Morin, Stan Jones, Jack Pennick, Pat Wayne, Ken Curtis and Dick Foran.

“Rio Grande” is probably  the least regarded of the trilogy but any Ford Western is still a classic It takes place on a remote Rio Grande outpost after the Civil War, where Lt. Yorke is unexpectedly reunited with the wife and young adult son Jeff he has not seen since he ordered his wife’s house burned during the war.

Jeff is befriended by fellow troopers, Travis (Ben Johnson) and Sandy (Harry Carey, Jr.) as he works to prove himself in the cavalry. Meanwhile, as Jeff’s parents gradually come closer to understanding and reconciliation, the children of the fort are kidnapped by Indians.

If you have not seen “Rio Grande”, I encourage you to do so. I’ve seen it many times over the years and each viewing is more rewarding than the last.

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