Monday 17 June 2013

Rio Grande [1950]

Rio Grande, the final installment in Ford’s ‘Cavalry Trilogy’, continued the saga of mutually destructive territorial battles between the US Cavalry and the Native Americans. Interestingly, it also added another chapter to interesting father-son explorations in the series. In Fort Apache the father was cold and rigid, in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, though symbolic, he was warm and understanding, and here he was distant and silently loving. John Wayne reprised his role from the first film, viz. Kirby Yorke, now a Lieutenant Colonel and in command of a Texan outpost. He falls in a position of emotional and professional difficulty when his young son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.), who he hasn’t seen in 15 years, joins his regiment. On one hand he is delighted to have his son near him after such a long time, while on the other his sense of integrity wouldn’t allow him to treat his son differently lest he be accused of partiality. Things become further complicate with the arrival of his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara) who wants to take their son back. Meanwhile the Apaches have grown stronger and more organized with each passing year, and when children are captured by them, the inevitable face-off between the warring sides ensues. Wayne gave another fine performance as a man torn between duty and personal wants – his tough exterior was nicely counterbalanced by his inner loneliness and craving for love. Monument Valley once again provided stunning backdrops thanks to the exquisite cinematography, while the deeply affecting blues and folk songs performed by Sons of the Pioneers added melancholic touches to this engaging but otherwise reasonably straightforward and sentimental film.

Director: John Ford
Genre: Western/Cavalry Film
Language: English
Country: US

1 comment:

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

I enjoyed Rio Grande much more than Fort Apache. That film had too much corny humour vying for screen time against Henry Fonda's quest for military glory. Wayne talks tough about not treating his son any differently, but we don't see the two clash very often on the job. I agree about Sons of the Pioneers. Their low-key performances add a nice touch to this fine film.