We're gonna take a break this week from Matt Helm, but I haven't forgotten that I still have The Wrecking Crew left to cover. See, that's the only way I know Dean Martin: from comedy. Though, I'm sure Dino wouldn't have any problem with that legacy. I first saw him as a kid in the Cannonball Run movies, and then later from clips of his old roasts on PBS, and later on it was with the rest of the Rat Pack in the original Ocean's 11. So, since I like to fill in the spots where I see gaps in my experience, I decided to take in the serious side of Dean Martin and watched Howard Hawks' 1959 western, Rio Bravo.
The movie opens with Dude (Dean Martin), the town drunk, reaching for a dollar that's been mockingly thrown to him into a nearby spittoon by Joe Burdette, the brother of the town's wealthy rancher, when John Chance (John Wayne), the sheriff, kicks it away out of pity. Dude hits Chance knocking him out, and Burdette's men hold up Dude for Joe to go to work on. When a bystander tries to intercede, Joe shoots him in cold blood. This leads to Joe's capture and the start of a long stand-off between the sheriff and Nathan Burdette, the wealthy rancher while they wait for U.S. Marshalls to come for Joe.
|With all the singers, John Wayne fights to keep the movie from becoming Paint Your Wagon...|
A lot of this is because the movie was in reaction to the western High Noon (1952). High Noon starred Gary Cooper as a marshall who had to face down the vengeful members of the Miller gang all alone when no one will come to his aid. It's long been known to be an allegory of the House of Un-American Activities hearings in Hollywood that led to the black-listing of the Hollywood Ten, a group of filmmakers who had affiliations with the Communist Party. John Wayne was famously not a fan of High Noon, and enlisted Hawks to help him make Rio Bravo as a response. So as the sheriff who can't help but turn down help, Bravo definitely wins the "feel good" prize, but it simply can't compete with the desperation and suspense, the palpable dread, of High Noon.
But it does feel good, and it is nice and enjoyable to see a movie that's not so jaded and shows a whole town pitching in with its sheriff to keep the rich guy from bullying his way into setting his murderous jerk brother free. It's just not very nail-biting.
|Considering his reputation, Dino deserved an award for this scene alone....|
|The movie gave the ladies Ricky, I'll leave this for the fellas...|
|Looks like Howard would concur...|