Maybe I shouldn’t have put all of my John Ford hopes in Rio Grande’s basket like I did after leaving Loulou dissatisfied. It’s been five years since I saw my last John Ford film (My Darling Clementine) and I might have ended up watching the worst one of his filmography that I have ever seen.
First things first, let’s keep in mind that this was produced in 1950 when cinema was still very much vilifying Native Americans and their fight to reclaim the land that had been wrongly taken from them as part of the post-Civil War expansion. Even with that cultural awareness, Rio Grande still never worked for me as a film and I am making the assumption that it was included on the list as one of Ford’s trilogy that focused on US cavalry in the expansionist West.
Considering that this is the final film in this trilogy which means there are relationships between characters where you have to take things on faith rather than knowing the history. That’s fine and all, but this list also chose to include the least acclaimed of the trilogy (the others being Fort Apache and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon) so I am really at a loss here, but at least I know which John Ford films I need to be watching to feel better.
So what was it that didn’t work for me? Well most of it to be honest. Aside from the being on the back foot when it came to certain characters, the fairly frequent song breaks by the cavalry’s vocal group was pretty bizarre and really did not help the tone inconsistencies. You also have Maureen O’Hara effectively being wasted on the character of the Captain’s wife which is pretty much inexcusable.
In the end though, this film just didn’t seem to communicate what type of western it wanted to be. I had the same issue with Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but at least with that I actually cared about the end result for those characters. Here, I had no real allegiance to a character outside of Maureen O’Hara, which didn’t help with the bulk of the film’s second half.
It’s been nice to have some time cross off a bunch more 1001 films during my two days off sick – the only real upside from these awful stomach cramps that have dogged me the last few days. Not the best run of films, but at least it’s moved me just that bit closer to finishing this list off once and for all.