At the end of the 1950s, some Western films were taking a more modern -- that is, darker -- perspective of the stereotypical Old West hero. But "Rio Bravo" was a return to the Wild West glory days. How much do you know about this revered film?
In "Rio Bravo," John "The Duke" Wayne makes an unforgettable appearance. He plays the role of Sheriff John T. Chance, a lawman in Presidio County.
The story is set in a small town called Rio Bravo, Texas, during the days of the lawless Old West. The movie was filmed on location in the desert near Tucson, Arizona.
Dean Martin is the deputy named Dude. He's a lawman, but he's also struggling with a very public drinking problem.
Ford often worked with John Wayne, but not on this movie. "Rio Bravo" was directed by another famed Hollywood captain -- Howard Hawks.
"High Noon" was a dark Western that portrayed heroes as flawed. Howard Hawks didn't like those kinds of themes, and "Rio Bravo" was meant to reaffirm the stereotypical Western sheriff hero who always does the right thing and doesn't need help from other people.
Howard Hawks decided to incorporate some stylistic quirks into this film. There's no dialogue during the long first scene.
Dude, the local deputy, is at the saloon trying to get a drink. He winds up having an altercation with Joe Burdette, a henchman for a big rancher.
Burdette knocks out Dude and shoots a stranger who tries to intervene. But Sheriff Chance catches up to him, subdues him and throws Joe in jail.
Nathan Burdette is Joe Burdette's brother. Nathan is a wealthy local rancher who has dozens of loyal (and crooked) men who do his bidding. Nathan is none too pleased to find out that his brother has been jailed by Chance.
Wheeler and Chance are old friends. Chance tells his buddy that there's trouble brewing in town thanks to Nathan Burdette's men.
Nelson is a young gunslinger named Colorado. He arrives in Rio Bravo with Pat Wheeler, and the duo (eventually) decides to help Sheriff Chance deal with Burdette and his men.
Stumpy (played by Walter Brennan) is an old deputy with a disabled leg. He plays the comical sidekick.
"Rio Bravo" is part of an informal Howard Hawks trilogy that includes "El Dorado" and "Rio Lobo." All three films feature John Wayne as the star.
Dickinson plays a woman named Feathers. She's a card shark who revels in a high-stakes game of poker. The actress appeared in other big productions, such as 2000's "Pay It Forward."
Sheriff Chance is no dummy. He knows that Feathers cheats at poker. He confronts her, but in reality, Burdette's vicious men are a much bigger problem for everyone in town.
One of Nathan Burdette's men shoots and kills Wheeler. The murder only steels the sheriff for a confrontation with the bad guys.
Colorado initially wants nothing to do with the town's conflict. He simply wants to mind his own business (and sing songs once in a while).
Although it's now regarded as a classic Western, "Rio Bravo" didn't receive any Oscar nominations. Thanks to Angie Dickinson, it did win a Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer.
Feathers is immediately drawn to the burly sheriff, who tells her that she needs to leave town. Instead of leaving, she hangs out and winds up kissing him.
Howard Hawks wanted the buildings in "Rio Bravo" to be smaller so that the actors would look bigger. The idea was that they'd appear larger than life -- in other words, more legendary.
Dude barely escapes an assassination attempt and finds a $50 gold piece on the body of the henchman. Now they know for certain that Nathan Burdette wants to kill the local lawmen in order to free his brother Joe.
Burdette's men play "El Degüello," a threatening song that's basically a death threat towards anyone who opposes them. Sheriff Chance should be shaking in his boots … but he's not.
Colorado identifies the song as "The Cutthroat Song." Burdette's men are officially out for blood, willing to do anything to free Joe and exact revenge on the local do-gooders.
Wayne played the role of an aging lawman. Feathers, however, was just 26. The arrangement made Wayne ... uncomfortable.
Howard Hawks wanted Wayne to look very friendly in some scenes -- for those, the bill of Wayne's hat is turned upwards. During fight scenes, though, the bill is flattened, making Sheriff Chance look more menacing.
"Rio Bravo" might not have won many awards, but critics mostly gave it two thumbs up. It's now regarded as one of the better Westerns of the 50s.
Chance and his men retreat to the jail where they're guarding Joe Burdette. Somehow, they have to hold out until U.S. marshals arrive to take Burdette off to face justice.
Nelson, who plays Colorado, was a huge teen idol before "Rio Bravo." His immense popularity helped draw many younger people to theaters.
The good guys toss dynamite towards Burdette's men. The dynamite explodes and convinces Burdette's men to give up the fight.
Feathers is drawn to the little village of Rio Bravo. She decides to settle in town and the good people of Rio Bravo live happily ever after.