Hmm. It seems the next time I end up watching back-to-back westerns, I should make a better choice as to which I watch first. Rio Grande was undertaken by John Ford and stars John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara as a means to secure the funding needed to make Ford’s passion project, The Quiet Man, as the producers at the studio didn’t think the latter film would be profitable on its own. Thus, they pretty much made the main trio do this film first, hoping that this would be enough of a success that Ford could then do the film he really wanted to make. Well, The Quiet Man would go on to be Republic Pictures’ new #1 film, while this would be a modest success at best. Frankly, I’m surprised this even managed to be anything of a success; this is easily the most shoehorned, cookie-cutter western I’ve ever seen.
Wayne is Kirby Yorke, a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Cavalry stationed near the Rio Grande in Texas. His son Jeff turns up as an enlisted private, and further tension comes in the form of O’Hara’s Kathleen, Yorke’s estranged wife and mother to Jeff, who’s come to take him home against both the men’s wishes. Oh, and there’s some evil, dastardly Apaches that raid and pillage, who use the Rio Grande border of Mexico as a safeguard to protect them from Yorke’s jurisdiction. I’ll let you piece the rest together on your own; it should be fairly simple. Wow, was this film telegraphed. Every single plot point and damn near every single shot was so cherry-picked it was groan-worthy, and if you couldn’t see the whole entire plot from the first 15-20 minutes then you are quite frankly an idiot. Every time a character was introduced, within five minutes I knew their whole character arc, so the whole rest of the film became an exercise in tedium, watching the film unroll exactly as I suspected it would for at least the whole last hour. The acting was also very… “acting”. You know; that just-slightly bombastic enough style of performance that seemed to be all the rage in the pre-Brando years. And John Wayne stars as John Wayne, as he always does, but if you expected anything different, then… well, if you expect this film to do anything out of the ordinary or expected at all, then you are somewhat misguided. I looked at a few reviews of this film, that praised the cinematography and the inter-personal relationships between Wayne and O’Hara’s characters, but frankly, I didn’t see anything worth making note of, or anything that isn’t done far better in other films. Oh, and I shouldn’t finish without a mention of the “Regiment Singers”, the most contrived method of cramming in musical numbers into a film I have ever, ever seen.
The more this film went on, the more indignant I got at being forced to watch it. There was nothing about this that wasn’t straightforwardly typical of a Hollywood film at the time, and straightforwardly typical does not a “must see” film make. This could barely pass as a good film, and even those who would find enjoyment from it will be tempted to roll their eyes more than a few times, I’d suspect. Not only would I not suggest you bother with this one, I’m frankly a little miffed this made the list to begin with, and especially that it survived the recent 10th edition revision. Hopefully the westerns I still have left on the list have a little something more to offer than this one; an easy concept to imagine, seeing as how this had pretty much nothing to offer in the first place.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10