Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread! We are slowly emerging from quarantine, and films are starting to appear in theaters on a regular basis. Have you seen any in a theater yet? Or do you prefer to stay at home, watching new releases on streaming? Have you seen any older classics you can recommend? Have you discovered a film this last week that you can’t wait to tell everyone about? Post here, you place on the Avocado to discuss film with your fellow Avocado commenters!
For the most part, Red River is one of my favorite Westerns. It’s something of a surprise. You have certain expectations of pre-Wild Bunch Westerns that star John Wayne. Black hats vs. white hats, that sort of thing.
So it feels refreshing when Howard Hawks subverts cliches already ingrained in 1948. Wayne takes on a rare villain role. His single-minded obsessions lead to paranoia and murder. He becomes incredibly unhinged as a cattle drive chips away at his sanity. Film critic Joseph McBride saw this film and told Howard Hawks what he thought of John Wayne: “I never knew the big son of a b—— could act.”
The movie seems to be structured to a foregone conclusion. I checked on Wikipedia to see what the conclusion of the original short story looked like. It was very much in line with my expectations and truly a logical progression of the story as it was set up.
But Hollywood was Hollywood at the time. They had to tack on a crowd-pleasing ending… especially in a film that starred John Wayne, the infallible hero of many a western. And thus, the ending of Red River is by far the weakest part of the film. For a lot of people, the ending straight up ruins the movie. Screenwriter Borden Chase reportedly hated it.
Today’s bonus prompt (and go ahead and lean on that spoilers tag): what film do you feel was ruined by the ending?
Next week: dialogue-free scenes