Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rio Grande

Lieutenant Colonel York commands a post in the southwest following the Civil War and learns that his son whom he has not seen in 15 years has been expelled from West Point for not making grades. Later that day he finds him to be a new enlistment in his unit, with his mother in tow trying to buy him out of enlistment. Refusing to sign the release papers, York begins to mend old wounds, treating his son as any other soldier and romancing his estranged wife. Soon though, the Apache tribe becomes a threat and the young man is called to the task to prove himself to his mother, his father, and his army. Following "Fort Apache" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon". "Rio Grande" is the final film in John Ford and John Wayne's Cavalry Trilogy. It is a beautiful film, reverting to black and white after the technicolor "Ribbon", and wonderfully captures Ford's beloved Monument Valley as well as the delicate human features not often seen in Westerns. Wayne is great and reprises his role from Apache, playing the gentler and more reserved character than we're used to. Maureen O'Hara is equally fine as his wife and Ford regular Victor McLaglen is back again amusingly playing his drunken Irish hulk. The movie also has some memorable music played by the group Sons of the Pioneers. The ending of the film, where the division must rescue a group of children kidnapped by Indians, is cliched and unsatisfying. Still, "Rio Grande" is an atypical Western and fine conclusion to a stellar trilogy by two of the cinema's greats.