skip navigation
share:
Remind Me

Trivia & Fun Facts About RED RIVER

Red River has been released in two versions, one with Walter Brennan speaking the linking narration (making that version eight minutes shorter) and the other with turning pages of a book that describe the story links. Critics most often prefer the spoken narration, although the book version is the one released on DVD. Some prints also eliminated the scene of Matt and Cherry's competitive target practice, leading some reviewers to complain that the film does not sufficiently flesh out the relationship between the two. Hawks himself preferred the narrated version. He noted that the book was used in the first cut and that he had no idea why they even released it that way, especially on television, where the text was too small to read.

Although not released until September 1948, Red River became the year's third biggest moneymaker, earning more than $4 million on its first run.

Upon attending a rough-cut screening of the picture, Montgomery Clift was disappointed, mostly because of the ending, which he thought was ludicrous "because Joanne Dru settles it and it makes the showdown between me and John Wayne a farce." He also found his own performance mediocre but recognized it as a star-making role. "I watched myself in Red River and knew I was going to be famous, so I decided I would get drunk anonymously one last time," he later said.

Red River was the first project for Howard Hawks and John Wayne, but the two worked together four more times, three of them Westerns (Rio Bravo [1959], El Dorado [1966], Rio Lobo [1970]) and one, Hatari! [1962], that had many characteristics of a Western, despite its African setting. Wayne later told Peter Bogdanovich that the only question he ever asked Hawks when the director approached him about doing a film was the date they would start shooting.

Arthur Rosson was given co-director credit because of his extensive and acclaimed work guiding the second unit, which captured many of the great cattle drive and large action scenes. The brother of famed cinematographer Harold Rosson and director Richard Rosson, both of whom also worked with Hawks, he was the sole director of many silent pictures and several B Westerns of the sound era, and a trusted second unit director on major films of the 20s through the 50s, including several productions with Cecil B. DeMille.

Writer Borden Chase's novels and stories were turned into a number of pictures, many of which he adapted himself. A specialist in Westerns, though not exclusive to that genre, he also wrote a number of original screenplays, including Winchester '73 (1950) and Bend of the River (1952), both directed by Anthony Mann. His work was the basis for three other John Wayne films, although he never worked with Hawks again. His daughter is retired dancer-actress Barrie Chase who is best known as Fred Astaire's dance partner in several of his TV specials of the 1950s and 60s.

Co-scripter Charles Schnee was a much-respected screenwriter and Oscar® winner for The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). His other notable work includes Anthony Mann's psychological Western The Furies (1950), Nicholas Ray's stunning directorial debut They Live by Night (1948), and William Wellman's strange fantasy The Next Voice You Hear... (1950), in which God speaks to small-town America via the radio.

Cinematographer Russell Harlan began his career in the late 30s and made his mark photographing a string of Hopalong Cassidy movies through the mid-40s. He got his first break in feature-length A pictures with Lewis Milestone's war film A Walk in the Sun (1945) and two Joel McCrea Westerns before Hawks hired him for Red River. He worked with Hawks six more times and also did notable work on such films as The Big Sky (1952), Blackboard Jungle (1955), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and Hawaii (1966).

Christian Nyby began his career as an editor in 1943 and cut four of Hawks' pictures, as well as several for Raoul Walsh. He began his directing career with The Thing from Another World (1951), which Hawks produced and assisted in the writing and directing, though he received no screen credit for the latter two duties. Nyby, who died in 1993, worked most frequently on television, including several episodes of the Western series Gunsmoke, which starred James Arness who played the alien "Thing" in Nyby's directorial debut. Coincidentally, Arness also played Wayne's role in a 1988 TV remake of Red River.

Dimitri Tiomkin was one of the most successful film composers of all time, earning 22 Academy award nominations and scores of other honors. He won two Oscar®s for Best Score, for the Western High Noon (1952) and the John Wayne movie The High and the Mighty (1954). He also shared an Oscar® with lyricist Ned Washington for the High Noon theme song, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling." He scored four other Hawks films.

Walter Brennan shares the distinction of being the first actor to win three Academy Awards, all of them in the Best Supporting Actor category. He was chosen Best Supporting Actor for Come and Get It (1936); Kentucky (1938), a version of the Hatfield and McCoy legendary feud; and William Wyler's The Westerner (1940). One of the most successful character actors in American film history, Brennan appeared in more than 200 pictures (six for Hawks, seven with Wayne) between 1925 and his death in 1974, a great many of them Westerns. He was also the star of the popular 1950s TV comedy series, The Real McCoys.

Joanne Dru married fellow Red River co-star John Ireland in 1949. They divorced in 1957. After appearing in Red River, her second feature film appearance, she was cast in several other Westerns, including one called Siege at Red River (1954), even though she hated horses. Dru, who died in 1996, was the sister of actor-singer Peter Marshall, probably best known as the host of the original Hollywood Squares all-star game show of the 1960s.

Blink and you'll miss a couple of future stars in bit parts. Shelley Winters can be glimpsed as a dance hall girl in the second wagon train. Richard Farnsworth, Oscar®-nominated for his work in Comes a Horseman (1978) and The Straight Story (1999), plays one of Dunson's men. He was also a stuntman on the picture. Harder to recognize is Glenn Strange, who took over the role of Frankenstein's monster from Boris Karloff and played the part in three films (and once on TV), including Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Strange appeared in 16 of Wayne's earlier films; Red River was their last picture together.

Several players in Red River appeared with John Wayne in a number of films, many of them identified as the John Ford stock company in many of that director's pictures. Hank Worden (Simms Reeves) played a key part as Old Mose in The Searchers (1956) and was in 15 other Wayne movies. Paul Fix made 27 pictures with Wayne between 1931 and 1973. Wayne worked with Harry Carey four times and with his son, Harry Carey, Jr., ten times. Noah Beery, Jr. and Wayne were in four films together.

Chief Yowlatchie, as the comic character Quo who trades quips with Walter Brennan's Groot, was born Daniel Simmons, a member of Washington state's Yakima tribe. He started his career as an opera singer before venturing into movies in 1925.

Memorable Quotes from RED RIVER:

WAGONMASTER (Uncredited): Now look, Dunson, you're too good a gun for me to let you leave the train now.
DUNSON (John Wayne): Then I'm too good a gun for you to argue with.

WRITTEN PASSAGE: And that was the meeting of a boy with a cow and a man with a bull and the beginning of a great herd.

GROOT (Walter Brennan): Nine to ten thousand head of cattle clear to Missouri.
MATT (Montgomery Clift): We can make it.

CHERRY (John Ireland): That's a good-looking gun you were about to use back there. Can I see it? And you'd like to see mine. Nice, awful nice. You know there're only two things more beautiful than a good gun-a Swiss watch or a woman from anywhere. You ever have a good Swiss watch?

SIMMS (Hank Worden): Plantin' and readin', plantin' and readin'. Fill a man full o' lead, stick him in the ground and then read words on him. Why, when you kill a man, why try to read the Lord in as a partner on the job?

TESS (Joanne Dru): I believe it's your beef we're eating.
DUNSON: Who told you that?
TESS: The man you promised to kill.

DUNSON: You better marry that girl, Matt
MATT: When are you gonna stop telling people what to do?

SIMMS: Well, I don't like to see things goin' good or bad. I like 'em in between.

NADINE: Don't like to see strangers coming. Maybe it's because no stranger ever good newsed me.

MATT: What do they call you?
CHERRY: Some call me one thing and others another.
MATT: What do they call you the most?
CHERRY: My name.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

VIEW TCMDb ENTRY