When gunslinger Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) kills a man in a saloon, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) arrests him with the aid of the town drunk, Dude (Dean Martin). Before long, Burdettes brother, Nathan (John Russell), comes around, indicating that hes prepared to bust his brother out of jail if necessary. Chance decides to make a stand until reinforcements arrive, enlisting Dude, an old cripple named Stumpy (Walter Brennan) and baby-faced cowboy Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson) to help.
Rio Bravo is a 1959 American Western film produced and directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, and Ward Bond. Written by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, based on the short story "Rio Bravo" by B. H. McCampbell, the film is about the sheriff of the town of Rio Bravo, Texas who arrests the brother of a powerful local rancher in order to help his drunken deputy/friend. With the help of a cripple and a young gunfighter, they hold off the ranchers gang. Rio Bravo was filmed on location at Old Tucson Studios outside Tucson, Arizona in Technicolor.
In 2014, Rio Bravo was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The sheriff of a small town in southwest Texas must keep custody of a murderer whose brother, a powerful rancher, is trying to help him escape. After a friend is killed trying to muster support for him, he and his deputies - a disgraced drunk and a cantankerous old cripple - must find a way to hold out against the rancher's hired guns until the marshal arrives. In the meantime, matters are complicated by the presence of a young gunslinger - and a mysterious beauty who just came in on the last stagecoach.
In the town of Rio Bravo, Texas, sheriffs deputy Dude (Dean Martin), who has acquired the contemptuous nickname Borrachon (pronounced: [bo.ra?t?on], Spanish for "drunk"), enters a saloon but cant afford a drink. Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), brother of rancher Nathan Burdette, tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon. Presidio County, Texas Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) appears and kicks the spittoon away, looking at Dude with disgust. Dude is shamed by his plight and takes out his anger on Chance, knocking him out with an ax handle. Joe begins punching Dude, then shoots and kills an unarmed bystander who tries to intervene.
Joe heads to his brothers saloon, where a bloody Chance comes to arrest him for the murder of the bystander. Another patron draws his gun on Chance, but Dude shoots the gun out of the mans hand. Joe is locked up in the local jail. Chance is willing to deputize Dude, provided he can stay sober. Both remember how good with a gun Dude used to be.
Chances friend Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) and his wagon train of supplies stop in town, with a young gunslinger, Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), riding guard. Inside the jail, Stumpy (Walter Brennan), Chances game-legged deputy, keeps watch over the jail and Joe, who knows that Stumpy holds an old grudge against Joes wealthy and powerful brother. Joe warns his jailers that Nathan Burdette wont like how his brothers being treated.
A mysterious woman nicknamed Feathers (Angie Dickinson) is in the saloon, playing poker. In the meantime, Dude and Chance patrol the town. Hotel owner Carlos (Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez) stops the sheriff, saying Wheeler has been talking too much about Chance needing help. In the saloon, Chance implores Wheeler to stop, as it will draw attention from the wrong people. Wheeler suggests that Colorado could be of assistance, but Colorado politely declines, saying he wants to "mind my own business." Colorado also promises not to start any trouble without telling the sheriff first.
Feathers leaves the poker game a winner. Chance follows her up to her room and confronts her as a card cheat, with his evidence three missing aces from the deck of cards being used in the game and a handbill indicating she is wanted for card cheating. Colorado intervenes, saying another participant in the game is the real cheat. They confront the card cheat and prove his guilt. Chance refuses to apologize to Feathers for doing his job, but is no longer in a hurry to make her leave town.
As Wheeler is walking back to the hotel, he is shot dead by a Burdette man hiding in the stable. Colorado offers to help but is angrily turned away by Chance, who says, "You had a chance to get in this and you didnt want it." Chance and Dude flush out the shooter, who escapes into Nathans saloon after Dude wounds him. Dude believes the man has muddy boots, but everyone in the bar has clean boots. Two patrons suggest Dude needs a drink and one throws a silver dollar into a spittoon. The bartender puts a beer on the bar, but Dude notices blood dripping into the glass from above. He turns, fires and kills the shooter.
Chance goes back to the hotel to sleep. Without his knowledge, Feathers stands guard at the door to keep him safe, then returns to her room when he awakens. Chance discovers what she did and advises that she should leave on the next stagecoach.
Nathan Burdette (John Russell) arrives in town with his men, intent on seeing his brother Joe. Dude is standing guard and confiscating all guns. One of Burdettes men ignores him until Dude cuts one of his horses reins with a single shot. Nathan agrees to turn in their guns until they leave.
Carlos says Feathers will not get on the stagecoach. She tells the sheriff she does not want to leave, then gives him a kiss. He indicates if he were not in such a fix at the jail, things between them might be different.
Colorado visits the jail to tell Chance the meaning of a song Nathan is paying men to play at his saloon. It indicates that "no quarter" will be given to ones enemy, no mercy. Dude is trying hard to stay sober. He is given back his guns (the ones he had before he left town, sold by Dude but bought back by Chance) as well as some clothes he left behind.
The next morning, while Dude is standing guard at the town entryway, four Burdette men attack him from behind and tie him up in a stable. Others get the drop on Chance, whose rifle is just out of reach. From inside the hotel, acting on Colorados instructions, Feathers throws a flower pot through a window a moment after Colorado steps out on the porch, distracting the Burdette men. Colorado quickly throws Chances rifle to him and the two men shoot the three Burdette hands.
Chance decides to have his men hole up in the jail, as it will take several more days for the United States Marshal to arrive to take Joe to the Presidio. Dudes nerves are shot, but as hes about to take a drink, the song played by Burdettes musicians steels his resolve. He and Chance go to the hotel to round up additional supplies, but Carlos and Consuela are captured by Burdettes men, who trick Chance into charging and falling over a rope tied at the bottom of the stairs. Dude and Feathers are unable to help.
Chance is ordered to take the men to the jail to let Joe go. He is reluctant to do so, but Dude implores Chance to cooperate, saying that Stumpy is alone and has no food or water to hold out very long. The remaining Burdette men at the hotel take Dude hostage and Nathan Burdette offers to trade him later for Joe.
Stumpy opens fire at the jail, holding off Burdettes men. Chance and Colorado then take Joe to make the trade for Dude at a warehouse, leaving Stumpy behind because of his bad leg. During the trade, walking in opposite directions, Dude tackles Joe and they scuffle while a gunfight erupts. Stumpy turns up and helps even the odds. Dude overpowers Joe. The lawmen throw dynamite sticks at the warehouse where Burdette and his men are based, shooting the sticks to explode them. After a few explosions rock the warehouse, the criminals surrender.
All is quiet in town as Chance gets reacquainted with Feathers, who models a skimpy new costume she will be wearing in her new job singing at the hotel. After it comes floating from the window to the street, a delighted Stumpy retrieves it, but Dude cautions him to mind his own business.John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance
Dean Martin as Dude (Borrachon)
Ricky Nelson as Colorado Ryan
Angie Dickinson as Feathers
Walter Brennan as Stumpy
Ward Bond as Pat Wheeler
John Russell as Nathan Burdette
Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez as Carlos Robante
Estelita Rodriguez as Consuela Robante
Claude Akins as Joe Burdette
Malcolm Atterbury as Jake (stage driver)
Harry Carey Jr. as Harold (scenes deleted)
Exteriors for the film were shot at Old Tucson Studios, just outside Tucson, Arizona. Filming took place in the summer of 1958, and the movies credits gave 1958 as the year of production, although the film was not released until 1959.
Rio Bravo is generally regarded as one of Hawks best, and is notable for its scarcity of closeup shots. Only four appear in Rio Bravo. In the opening scene, when Joe shoots an unarmed man. Joes revolver is shown in closeup, when he rolls a cigarette, also when Dude pours a shot of whiskey back into the bottle, and a closeup of a beer glass where a drop of blood falls in, alerting Dude to a gunman in the bar waiting above him in ambush. The long opening scene has no dialogue. The film received favorable reviews, and was successful, taking in over US$5.5 million.
The musical score was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. His score includes the hauntingly ominous "El Deguello" theme, which is heard several times. The Colorado character identifies the tune as "The Cutthroat Song". He relates that the song was played on the orders of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to the Texans holed up in the Alamo, to signify that no quarter would be given to them. The tune was used the following year, over the opening credits of Waynes film, The Alamo. Composer Ennio Morricone recalled that director Sergio Leone asked him to write "Dimitri Tiomkin music" for A Fistful of Dollars. The trumpet theme is similar to Tiomkins "Deguello" (the Italian title of Rio Bravo was Un dollaro donore, "A Dollar of Honor").
Because the film starred a crooner, Martin, and a teen idol, Nelson, Hawks included three songs in the soundtrack. Before the big showdown, in the jail house, Martin sings "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" (which contained new lyrics to a Tiomkin tune that appeared in Red River) accompanied by Nelson, after which Nelson sings a brief version of "Get Along Home, Cindy", accompanied by Martin and Brennan. Over the closing credits, Martin, backed by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, sings a specially composed song, "Rio Bravo" (written by Tiomkin with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Nelson later paid homage to both the film and his character, Colorado, by including the song "Restless Kid" on his 1959 LP, Ricky Sings Again.
Members of the Western Writers of America chose "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
A brief clip from Rio Bravo was among the archive footage later incorporated into the opening sequence of Waynes last film, The Shootist, to illustrate the backstory of Waynes character.
The film was made as a response to High Noon, which is sometimes thought to be an allegory for blacklisting in Hollywood, as well as a critique of McCarthyism. Wayne would later call High Noon "un-American" and say he did not regret helping run the writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country. Director Howard Hawks went on the record to criticize High Noon by saying, "I didnt think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head off asking for help, and finally his Quaker wife had to save him." According to film historian Emanuel Levy, Wayne and Hawkes teamed up deliberately to rebut High Noon by telling a somewhat similar story their own way: portraying a hero who does not show fear or inner conflict and who never repudiates his commitment to public duty, while only allying himself with capable people, despite offers of help from many other characters. In Rio Bravo, Chance is surrounded by allies—a deputy who is brave and good with a gun, despite recovering from alcoholism (Dude), a young untried but self-assured gunfighter (Colorado), a limping "crippled" old man who is doggedly loyal (Stumpy), a Mexican innkeeper (Carlos), his wife (Consuela), and an attractive young woman (Feathers)—and repeatedly turns down aid from anyone he doesnt think is capable of helping him, though in the final shootout they come to help him anyway. "Wholl turn up next?" Wayne asks amid the gunfire, to which Colorado replies: "Maybe the girl with another flower pot."
In August 1976, Leslie Halliwell gave the film two out of four stars, describing it as a "cheerfully overlong and slow-moving western" that was nevertheless "very watchable for those with time to spare". Despite this, it has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating and was rated the second greatest Western of all-time in Sight and Sounds 2012 critic poll.
Howard Hawks went on to make two loose variations of Rio Bravo, on both occasions under a different title. Both of these remakes were directed by Hawks, both starred John Wayne and in each case, the script was written by Leigh Brackett. All involve lawmen working against an entrenched criminal element, partially by "holing up" in their jailhouse.The first remake, El Dorado, was filmed in 1966 but its release was held up by Paramount until the late summer of 1967. In this film, Robert Mitchum played the Dean Martin role, Arthur Hunnicutt the Walter Brennan character and James Caan the Ricky Nelson role. Hawks again named the Nelson/Caan character after a state (in this case, Mississippi) and in a wry, humorous twist on the original film, Hawks made him inept with firearms, but skilled with a knife.
The second remake, Rio Lobo, was made in 1970 with a plot much further off the original mold, starting with the absence of a lawman-turned-drunkard character. This began with a Confederate train robbery of a Union gold shipment during the American Civil War, then moved to a post-war Texas county thoroughly controlled by a rich, arrogant rancher. The heroes, with the exception of an old man similar to Brennans and Hunnicutts characters in the previous pictures (Jack Elam here), were complete outsiders. Along with Wayne and Elam, this movie starred Mexican film star Jorge Rivero (as Frenchie), Christopher Mitchum (Robert Mitchums son) and Jennifer ONeill.
Featherss dialogue was occasionally inspired by the character of "Slim" (Lauren Bacall) in the 1944 "To Have and Have Not", as when, after the first kiss, she says: "...its better when two people do it," recalling the phrase "its even better when you help;" and again later when she says, "Im hard to get - youre going to have to say you want me," recalling Slims "Im hard to get, Steve - all you have to do is ask me."
Lhomme a letoile dargent (The Man with the Silver Star), a 1969 album from the French comics series Lt. Blueberry was directly inspired by Rio Bravo. The plot is virtually the same. Blueberry plays the role of sheriff John T. Chance; McClure, a whiskey-adoring old man, combines the roles of Dude and Stumpy; Dusty plays the role of Colorado; Miss March, the teacher, plays the role of a less morally challenged Feathers; and instead of the Burdettes, here we have the Bass brothers.
John Carpenters 1976 film Assault on Precinct 13, though not a remake of Rio Bravo, was inspired by the film. Carpenter borrowed some elements from the earlier films plot but set it in 1970s Los Angeles. He also paid homage to the original film by using the pseudonym "John T. Chance," the name of Waynes character, for his editing credit. This film was also remade in 2005 by Jean-Francois Richet, starring Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, and Ja Rule, moving the films setting to Detroit.
Ghosts of Mars, a 2001 film also by Carpenter, retains many of the elements that were developed in Rio Bravo and Assault on Precinct 13 but takes place in a science fiction setting.
The Nest, a 2002 film by Florent Emilio Siri, starred Samy Naceri, Benoit Magimel, Nadia Fares, Pascal Greggory, and Sami Bouajila.
In the directors cut of Natural Born Killers (directed by Oliver Stone and written by Quentin Tarantino) actor Woody Harrelson says the line: "Lets make a little music, Colorado," before shooting Robert Downey Jr, even though the phrase "Lets make some music..." is from the movie El Dorado.