Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gettin' My John Wayne Fix, Pilgrim

Recently I had a hankerin' for a western. And not just any western would do; I needed a John Wayne western. I've seen others, and I enjoy others, but John Wayne is the gold standard in my book.

Eventually I made it over to the downtown library and checked out Rio Bravo, one I hadn't seen before. But as I watched it I realized I had seen it before, at least I had seen it in a different incarnation. Andrew, my son and John Wayne fan, felt the same way.

Rio Bravo is so much like El Dorado, another John Wayne flick (and probably my favorite). Or perhaps it's the other way around, since Rio Bravo came out in '59 and El Dorado in '67.

--Both movies are directed by Howard Hawks and star John Wayne.

--Both movies feature sheriffs and their deputies defending themselves against hired guns while trying to keep a prize prisoner in jail. (Wayne's the sheriff in Rio and a deputy in Dorado.)

--Both movies have a nicknamed, music playing, elderly deputy who is often squawking about the sheriff's ill-treatment of him (the harmonica-playing Stumpy in Rio and the bugle-blowing Bull in Dorado).

--In both movies a young man named after a state who can handle a weapon with deadly accuracy joins the sheriff to help him against the overwhelming numbers of the hired guns (the pistol-packing Colorado [Ricky Nelson] in Rio and the knife-throwing Mississippi [James Caan] in Dorado).

--At the beginning of both movies one of the good guys is a recovering drunk (Deputy Dean Martin in Rio and Sheriff Robert Mitchum in Dorado). The back story in both cases is that this good guy was one of the best gun-handlers ever, but then a girl came to town, and he was snared, hook, line, and sinker. The girl then threw him over, and he turned to the bottle. He has become the object of ridicule all around town, especially at the bar where he must go to get his regular bottle. During the course of the movie, through tough love Wayne and the others help him regain his confidence as well as his sobriety.

--Apparently drunkenness is associated with a neglect of personal hygiene, because in both movies the old guy (Stumpy and Bull) nags the drunk (Martin and Mitchum) into finally taken a bath for the good of the morale in the jail.

--I suppose it goes without saying that John Wayne has a love interest in both movies. And in both cases it seems to develop against his will, or in spite of reluctance, or whatever.

Now after naming all these similarities, I suppose you think I'm disappointed. Not at all! I enjoyed both movies. The good guys face overwhelming odds, but they stick to their guns (he he) and win in the end. My personal opinion is that El Dorado, the later movie, is the better one.

No comments: