Howard Hughes Tried (and Failed) to Get This John Wayne Western Shelved

The Big Picture

  • John Wayne’s function as a villain in
    Red River
    was a sharp contrast to his other roles at the time and showcased Howard Hawks’ darker intentions.
  • The dispute amongst Hawks and Howard Hughes resulted in a transform to the film’s iconic ending, simplifying the story and cutting out some complicated components.
  • Despite the legal battle,
    Red River
    became a classic Western, differentiating itself by its emotional resolution and exploration of toxic masculinity.

Although John Wayne starred in several of the greatest Westerns of all time, Howard Hawks’ 1948 epic Red River stands chief amongst them. Although Red River featured beautiful visuals that produced it enthralling on an aesthetic level, the film was important mainly because of its darker evaluation of capitalistic greed, toxic masculinity, and the inherent violence inside the American West. Red River permitted Wayne to play a villain, which came as a sharp contrast with the other roles he had at the time. While Red River can nevertheless be enjoyed as a regular Western adventure, Hawks’ darker intentions are produced clear by the time the film reaches its conclusion. However, Red River’s now iconic ending was the outcome of a dispute amongst Hawks and Howard Hughes.

Red River Film Poster

Red River

Dunson leads a cattle drive, the culmination of more than 14 years of function, to its location in Missouri. But his tyrannical behavior along the way causes a mutiny, led by his adopted son.

Release Date
September 7, 1948

Howard Hawks , Arthur Rosson

John Wayne , Montgomery Clift , Joanne Dru , Walter Brennan , Coleen Gray

133 Minutes

Main Genre

Borden Chase , Charles Schnee

Monterey Productions , Charles K. Feldman Group

Howard Hughes Accused Howard Hawks of Plagiarism

Hawks is 1 of the most important Western directors, and Red River challenged preconceived notions about heroism with its subversive depiction of a significant historical occasion. The film examines America’s 1st cattle drive by means of the viewpoint of the Texas rancher Thomas Dunson (Wayne) and the trail hand Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), who launched an ambitious strategy to travel from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Although Dunson’s lover Fen (Coleen Gray) is killed in the course of a conflict with Native Americans in the course of the journey, he discovers a young orphan named Matthew Garth that he decides to raise as his personal. An adult Garth (Montgomery Clift) accompanies his adopted father and Groot on their mission, but difficulty starts to emerge when Dunson becomes corrupted by greed.

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Dunson becomes the story’s antagonist when the dispute more than the cattle drive turns violent, placing him in conflict with Groot and Matt. The conflict amongst Dunson and Matt reaches its climax in the film’s final moments, in which they engage in a violent fistfight. However, Matt’s really like interest Tess Millay (Joanne Dru) forces the two males to admit that they basically really like every single other in a scene with sturdy Oedipal allusions. In what becomes a strangely optimistic conclusion, Dunson advises Matt to marry Tess and absolves any conflict amongst them. While it serves as a completely ironic ending to a darker story, the scene sparked a conflict with Hughes.

Hughes felt that the ending was also comparable to the 1943 Western film The Outlaw, which he and Hawks had worked on with each other. The film’s original reduce had incorporated an ongoing subplot featuring Matt’s conflict with the sharpshooter Cherry Valance (John Ireland), which added tension ahead of his duel with Dunson. Hughes was harboring his personal animosity toward the director for walking off the set of The Outlaw, and sued Hawks for plagiarizing the ending for Red River, even threatening to have the film indefinitely delayed. While Hughes’ complaints didn’t handle to bury Hawks’ profession as they had been intended to, they did force him to rethink the film’s final moments. The new ending removed some of the subplots and featured a narration from Brennan’s character that transitioned to the final duel. While the narration produced it much easier to translate Red River in overseas markets, it also simplified the story and reduce out some of its a lot more complicated components.

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The ‘Red River’ Director’s Cut Changed the Ending

Hawks had ready a 133-minute version of Red River that incorporated transitional moments meant to resemble pages in a book. Although Hawkes also ready a 127-minute reduce to appease Hughes’ complaints, editor Christian Nyby preserved the pre-release version, which was utilized for tv broadcasts and the film’s eventual residence video release. Although it was regarded to be lost, the original theatrical reduce of Red River was restored by Janus Films for its 2014 Criterion release. While some director’s cuts are significantly longer than their original versions, the variations amongst the two versions of Red River only come down to a couple of scenes.


How John Wayne’s Western Movie Career Ended With a Bang

John Wayne’s final on-screen function brought his profession as a Western legend complete circle.

Although Hawks indicated in an interview in 1972 that he preferred the theatrical reduce to the pre-release version, the revamped ending presents some logical errors. The narration incorporated by Brennan summarized events that he hadn’t witnessed. Comparatively, the book inserts supplied an objective viewpoint on what basically occurred. Although the rushed lead-up to the final battle may possibly have felt like a disappointment taking into consideration the realistic strategy that the film had up till that point, it didn’t stop Red River from becoming a classic. The film was named 1 of the greatest westerns of all-time by the AFI and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Motion Picture Story.

Regardless of the events that lead up to the ending, the emotional resolution to the final conflict amongstDunson and Matt differentiates Red River from other Westerns. The ending proves that even an individual as ruthless as Dunson is capable of redemption, and acknowledges the affection that he has for Matt. Rather than treating the two characters’ newfound peacefulness as a gag, Hawks shows that each males regret getting exemplified toxic traits. The heartfelt conclusion produced Red River stand out compared to the Westerns Wayne produced with director John Ford, which took a significantly darker strategy to the material.

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‘Red River’ Wasn’t Howard Hawks’ Only Classic Western

John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance and Ricky Nelson as Colorado Ryan standing in a jail in Rio Bravo
Image by way of Warner Bros.

While the legal battle with Hughes produced finishing Red River a challenge, it fortunately did not dissuade Hawks from continuing his function inside the Western genre. Hawks became 1 of Wayne’s most frequent collaborators and directed him to a profession-defining overall performance in the classic “hangout western” Rio Bravo. Rio Bravo was produced in direct response to the Gary Cooper western High Noon and has been cited as a preferred by filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, and Kenneth Branagh.

Although Hawks would go on to direct Wayne in the 1966 western El Dorado and its 1970 sequel El Lobo, Red River remains the most iconic of their collaborations. Although Wayne and Ford had revitalized the Western genre with their 1939 film Stagecoach, Red River proved that Westerns could engage with the darker elements of American history. While the film would’ve been shelved absolutely if Hughes had his way, Red River has earned its reputation as a classic that nevertheless holds up currently.

Red River is streaming on Prime Video in the U.S.


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