Every month, we plan to feature an outstanding western that we believe stands above the rest and has an interesting side story. The first movie that we want to highlight is the 1959 western “Rio Bravo” starring John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson.
John Wayne – Of Course!
John Wayne is often associated with great westerns, but you often don’t hear the names Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson mentioned as western movie stars. So what are Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson doing in this film? Isn’t Martin a comedian and Nelson a singer? Well … yes, but this isn’t a comedy or a musical western (although there is a little singing in it). It’s a straightforward drama with cool western action and it’s very, very good!
Dean Martin Without Jerry Lewis
Dean Martin starred in this classic western after he ended his partnership with Jerry Lewis. Martin and Lewis were a mega-sensational comedy duo, but over time their personality clashes ruined their professional relationship. Dean Martin went solo in 1957 and he starred in “Rio Bravo” just two years later. A lot of people didn’t think that Dean Martin would make it without Jerry Lewis, but they were proven wrong as Martin went on to star in numerous movies and had an award-winning TV show aptly named
“The Dean Martin Show.”
Ricky Nelson Instead of Elvis Presley
Ricky Nelson stars in this movie because he was a teenage heartthrob. The director, Howard Hawks, was going to cast Elvis Presley in “Rio Bravo”, but Presley’s manager wanted too much money. So, Hawks picked another singing sensation that he thought would bring lots of women to the theatre to see the film – fifties heartthrob Ricky Nelson. And Howard Hawks was right! “Rio Bravo” was the number one western movie at the box office in 1959. When asked about its box office success, Hawks is quoted as saying that he believed that Ricky Nelson alone added $2 million to sales at theatres.
Rio Bravo Storyline
A great classic western, however, has to have more than a teenage heartthrob, western movie legend, and former-comedy-king-gone-solo. There has to be a compelling storyline and “Rio Bravo” delivers.
In this classic western, John Wayne stars as the sheriff of a town that is basically being run by a powerful rancher and his hired guns. When Wayne jails the brother of the rancher and refuses to release him, he becomes a target. The rancher has vowed to come to town with his henchmen to forcefully get his brother out of jail.
John Wayne, starring as Sheriff John Chance, refuses to back down. (It’s John Wayne. He never backs down!) The locals are scared, so there isn’t going to be a super-posse of men to assist him. The odds are against him and all John Wayne has are some less-than-stellar, who-knows-if-they-can-even-help men. First, there’s Dean Martin’s character Dude who is a recovering alcoholic that needs to stay sober for the showdown. Then, there’s the cute young guy Ricky Nelson (who plays Colorado), who looks like he has barely fought anyone. And finally, there’s Walter Brennan (the man you see in a lot of westerns, but may not know his name), who is old, feisty and darn-tooting ready to give it to ‘em!
Of course there’s the inevitable showdown, but you don’t know exactly when or how it’s going to happen. This adds to the tension. Also, there’s a little romance between John Wayne and Angie Dickinson which is pretty significant for The Duke. (And one, apparently, that he was nervous about filming.)
Great Classic Western to Watch
If you haven’t seen this western, you owe it to yourself to watch it. And, if it has been a long time since you’ve watched “Rio Bravo”, you should see it again. It’s definitely a western that you can watch over-and-over again.
Go to our Rio Bravo Movie page to get more details about where to buy this movie on DVD or Blu-ray Disc and also find details about how you can download this western and watch it now.