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John Wayne — showing off a darker side to his screen persona than we'd previously seen — portrays Thomas Dunson, a frontiersman who, with his longtime partner Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), abandons a westbound wagon train in 1851 to make his future as a rancher in Texas. Doing so forces him to abandon Fen (Colleen Gray), his fiancee — and when she is killed in an Indian raid a short time later, it taints any good that Dunson might find in the future he carves out for himself, destroying any joy he might derive from life. The sole survivor of the raid is Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn), a young orphan who is unusually handy with a gun for one his age — and already knows how to channel his grief and horror at what he's seen, as much as Dunson does. Dunson informally adopts Matt as his son, and over the next 14 years he builds up one of the largest ranches in the entire state of Texas. And all of it is worth nothing, a result of the economic ruin wrought on the state in the aftermath of the Civil War. Matthew (Montgomery Clift), now back from the war and doing some of his own adventuring, finds a darker, more taciturn Dunson than he's ever known — as Groot tells it, he's afraid because he just doesn't know how to fight the threats he now faces. With Matthew now returned, Dunson decides to move his herd, nearly 10,000 head of cattle, to Missouri, where there is a market for beef, over 1000 miles away through territory controlled by border gangs hundreds of men strong that have stopped every cattle drive up to now, and Indians who have picked off what the gangs missed. Dunson drives his men as hard as he does himself, relentlessly, till even some of his best hands break under the strain — and he's not above killing anyone who challenges his authority on the drive. He's able to hold them in line as long as Matthew backs him up, and he does until Dunson, exhausted and worn down by lack of sleep, finally goes too far. Matthew steps in, backed by laconic, smirking gunman Cherry Valance (John Ireland) and most of the rest of the men and takes the herd from Dunson. Leaving his father and mentor behind, he heads the herd toward Kansas, where — so the men are told — there's a new railroad. Along the way, he meets Tess Millay (Joanne Dru), a card-dealer who falls in love with the young man. But he has to finish the drive and leaves her behind, much as Dunson left Fen. And they all know that Dunson is coming after Matthew to kill him.
Movie Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes
- Reviews Counted: 19
- Fresh: 19
- Rotten: 0
- Average Rating: 8.7/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: Even despite a big let-down, which fortunately comes near the end, it stands sixteen hands above the level of routine horse opera these days. So strap on your trusty six-shooters and race to the wind-swept Capitol, you lovers of good old Western fiction.
Fresh: The staging of physical conflict is deadly, equalling anything yet seen on the screen.
Fresh: It's a sign of the movie's complexity that John Wayne, often typecast, is given a tortured, conflicted character to play.
Fresh: Immaculately shot by Russell Harlan, perfectly performed by a host of Hawks regulars, and shot through with dark comedy, it's probably the finest Western of the '40s.
Red River One Great Movie with Clift and Wayne at their Best
There is no better John Wayne movie than the Searcher's. In fact the Searchers is one of the best movies ever made. However Red River is a great story and while not quite at as good as the Searchers is still a great movie. Even if you don't like Westerns there is a great story here and enough suspense to keep you glued to your seat. The Thomas Dunson character played by John Wayne is a tough rancher whose got to drive his herd of cattle 1,000 miles from Texas to Missouri or the face the loss of his ranch that he’s owned for more than twenty years. Along the way an argument ensues over which trail is best to get to their and John Wayne kills the men who go against him. Matthew “Matt” Garth played by Montgomery Clift who is fantastic in this movie, is like a son to Dunson and he steps in to calm everyone down. However Dunson assumes Garth, out of devotion and loyalty will settle on his side but Garth agrees that the trail the ranch hands want to take is the better trail and is angry with Dunson for killing the men. Garth tries to convince Dunson that this is best for all but Dunson is filled with rage over what he feels is betrayal at the hand of “son” and refuses to go along with the plan. But before riding back home Dunson promises to kill them all including Garth. This sets the stage an impending show down and a cattle drive that is full of fear, tension and suspense as the team led by Garth is certain that Dunson is on their heels. At night no one can sleep as the sound of a Coyote howling or the wind blowing spreads to confusion and fear as they are certain that Dunson and death at his hands awaits them all.
You should view this even if you don't think it's your cup of tea. It's a wonderfully made and acted film. It's also interesting to think that just a few years after the end of World War II, after the parade of war flicks that came out of Hollywood, audiences we ready for cattle drives. Did this film enable people better to understand the modern world through a story about a vanished past, or were audiences hungry for escape from their present?
No way Red River is by far one of the best moives ever made. This moive is awesome but way over priced.
- Genre: Western
- Released: 1948
- © 1948 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.