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The summary was based on a viewing of a modern "Restored Director's Cut" of the film. In a letter contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, the attorney for Monterey Productions stated that the company bought the original story from Borden Chase, and after certain changes had been made, the story was published in The Saturday Evening Post. Exterior photography was done around Elgin, AZ, south of Tucson, and interiors were filmed on the Samuel Goldwyn lot. Red River was the first film Montgomery Clift made, although his second, The Search (see below), was released first. According to a interview with Howard Hawks in a modern source, Joanne Dru was a last-minute substitute for Margaret Sheridan, who had to be replaced when she was discovered to be pregnant. A February 1, 1948 New York Times news item noted that the film's original budget was $1,800,000 and that an organization of private capitalists known as Motion Picture Investors provided a bond guaranteeing the film's completion at an eventual cost of $2,700,000. In December 1948, Daily Variety reported that the film's final cost was $4,100,000 and that the domestic gross was "being figured all the way from $4,000,000 to $5,500,000," with an additional $2,000,000 in foreign revenues.
Immediately prior to the film's premiere on August 26, 1948 in theaters in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, millionaire producer Howard Hughes filed an injunction against the film's openings in Texas, contending that the climactic gunfight sequence between "Tom" and "Matt" paralleled that in Hughes's The Outlaw, a production on which Hawks had briefly worked in 1940. To placate Hughes, Hawks cut approximately 28 seconds from the scene. A Daily Variety news item reported that Consolidated and Path laboratories worked through the weekend prior to the film's premiere to produce prints of the revised sequence and that editor Mel Thorsen was sent to film exchanges in Dallas, Kansas City and New York to supervise the changes. For more information on the controversy, see entry above for The Outlaw.
The "Director's Cut" of Red River, which was issued in 1987, is approximately seven minutes longer than the original release print and reinstates the footage excised due to the Hughes injunction. The 1948 version includes a spoken narration by Walter Brennan's "Groot Nadine" character, whereas the later version eliminates the narration and uses handwritten text from the Early Tales of Texas "diary." Other minor differences include additional shots before the stampede and the saving of the wagon train sequences, as well as a brief conversation between "Matt" and "Melville" as the cattle enter Abilene.
Modern sources add Pierce Lyden, Lee Phelps, George Lloyd, John Merton and Richard Farnsworth to the cast. A radio adaptation of the film, starring Wayne and Dru, was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on March 7, 1949. Red River received Oscar nominations in the Motion Picture Story and Film Editing categories. On April 10, 1988, the CBS network broadcast a remake of Chase's story, starring James Arness and Bruce Boxleitner, and directed by Richard Michaels.