Rio Bravo: My Rifle, My Pony, and Me

As he does every year, my father came to visit near the end of September so that he could attend our local fall festival. Unfortunately, that weekend turned out to be a soggy one, with so much rain that the festival was drowned out and closed early. Instead of walking around and getting soaked, we stayed in on Sunday and watched a couple of westerns. Sundays are probably the best day for westerns — I remember watching Bonanza and Rawhide as a child while my parents made breakfast. I actually don’t know too much about westerns and I mainly watched so that I could hear the theme songs and the music that played throughout the show. I preferred the zany antics of The Three Stooges and Laff-A-Lympics, also shown on Sundays, but westerns were just as good at helping me forget that eventually I’d have to trudge off to church.


When my dad last visited, he introduced me to Shane, which has become one of my favorite films. Recently, in the library’s 50 cent used book room, I found the paperback version of the novel. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s now part of the tall stack of books I need to read.

So. Late September. It’s raining like crazy. We managed to watch two films that day – some Spaghetti Western I found stressful and annoying and Rio Bravo. I’d read that Rio Bravo was made in response to High Noon, which I haven’t watched yet — so I can’t comment on John Wayne and Howard Hawks’ intent or which movie I preferred. But please note that Leigh Bracket was a co-writer of the script! Leigh Bracket, like Dean Martin, never disappoints.

Anyway, for now, I’ll say that I enjoyed Rio Bravo. In my eyes, Dean Martin can do or sing no wrong and Ricky Nelson plays the quiet, composed rebel quite well. Angie Dickinson as the sexy, spunky outlaw Feathers is fabulous (oh, those legs!), as are most of the feisty women who have appeared in many of the westerns I’ve watched.

The absolutely best part of the movie, however, takes place when the crew is holed up in prison, waiting for the U.S. Marshal, preventing their murderous prisoner from being rescued by his gang. In this scene, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson pass the time by giving Stumpy and Chance — and lucky for us — a beautiful little performance.


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