Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Ben Johnson, Claude Jarman Jr., Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, J. Carrol Naish, Victor McLaglen, Grant Withers, Peter Ortiz, Steve Pendleton, Karolyn Grimes, Alberto Morin, Stan Jones, Fred Kennedy
Written by: James Kevin McGuinness, based on a story by James Warner Bellah
Directed by: John Ford
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 105
Date: 11/15/1950

Rio Grande (1950)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Rollin' on the River

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In exchange for the funds to make his dream project The Quiet Man (1952), director John Ford agreed to make this low-budget Cavalry Western for Republic Studios. But it's far from a throwaway; it became the third part of Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy" and it's every bit as good as the other two, Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). In fact, I like it better than the problematic Fort Apache; it's far simpler and more effective.

John Wayne plays Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke, a career soldier stationed near the Rio Grande. Though the Apache keep attacking, he's under orders not to cross the river. Unexpectedly, his son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.), who has just flunked out of school, turns up as an enlisted man. His mother, and Kirby's former flame Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) arrives to retrieve him. A deserter accused of manslaughter figures into the plot.

Ford's usual band of character actors, Victor McLaglen (who drinks and brawls a lot), Ben Johnson, and Harry Carey Jr. all turn up, and the Sons of the Pioneers -- themselves playing soldiers -- occasionally break out in song. Bert Glennon provided the luscious black-and-white cinematography, with its many effective night shots.

Artisan released the DVD in 2002; it comes with a commentary track by the wonderful Ms. O'Hara. In 2012, Olive FIlms released a glorious Blu-ray edition, sadly, without said commentary track. But it does contain a 20-minute making of featurette (hosted by Leonard Maltin), and a trailer.

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