Cast & Crew
As the Civil War nears its end, a band of Confederate guerrillas led by Capt. Pierre Cordona and his scout, Tuscarora, steal a shipment of gold from a Union train. Although they also capture Union Col. Cord McNally, he eventually outwits them and retrieves the gold. When the war ends and the men meet again, McNally asks Cordona for the names of the traitors who informed the Confederates of the gold shipments, but Cordona replies that he never knew their names. Shortly thereafter, McNally rides into a Texas town and aids Shasta, a young woman whose medicine show partner has been murdered by a sheriff's deputy from nearby Rio Lobo. Cordona is also in town, and he tells McNally that the Union traitors have taken over Rio Lobo. Accompanied by Shasta, the two former enemies ride into Rio Lobo and learn that Deputy Ketcham and Sheriff Hendricks have confiscated land from the people, with the exception of old man Phillips, Tuscarora's grandfather. To force the issue, Hendricks arrests Tuscarora on trumped-up charges and throws him in jail, but McNally, Cordona, and Phillips take Ketcham hostage, force him to sign back the stolen land, and make him order Hendricks to release Tuscarora. They then barricade themselves inside the jail while Cordona goes to the nearest Army post for help. He is captured, however, by Hendricks' men and brought back to Rio Lobo; Hendricks then demands that Ketcham be exchanged for Cordona. Forced to comply, McNally releases his hostage but informs Hendricks that his partner signed back all the stolen land. Enraged, Hendricks shoots Ketcham and starts a massive gunfight. Hendricks is killed by his former mistress, and McNally's forces emerge victorious as the timid townspeople rally to defeat their common enemy.
Don "red" Barry
José ángel Espinosa
Anthony Sparrow Hawk
William H. Clothier
A. D. Flowers
Ray F. Mercer Jr.
Robert E. Smith
Many reviewers at the time lamented Rio Lobo as a disappointing end to a distinguished career, pointing out the many similarities between this and two earlier Hawks projects with John Wayne, Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966), which are considered superior. Hawks dismissed this criticism by noting how often Hemingway reworked the same themes and plot devices in his stories. "Very often [a director] looks at the picture and says, 'I could do that better if I did it again,'" he told Peter Bogdanovich. "I'm not a damn bit interested in whether somebody thinks this is a copy of it, because the copy made more than the original, and I was very pleased with it."
In Rio Lobo, Wayne is a Union captain who teams with two former Confederate soldiers right after the Civil War to track down a stolen shipment of gold. In the process, they end up in a town terrorized by a crooked sheriff. Wayne and his cohorts stop the corrupt official's tyranny and inspire the townspeople to stand up for themselves. The screenplay was written in part by Leigh Brackett, who scripted the two earlier Westerns with which this was compared, as well as three other Hawks films. One of the more notable female writers to span both the old Hollywood studio system and post-studio productions (her last screenplay was for the Star Wars entry The Empire Strikes Back, 1980), Brackett was brought onto this project after Hawks fired writer Burton Wohl. She followed the director's instructions, against her better instincts, to push the story back toward the two earlier Westerns. "Most of what I did on Rio Lobo was to try and patch over the holes," she later said. "I was unhappy that [Hawks] went back to the same old ending of the trade."
That ending, however, underwent some changes when Hawks became disenchanted with his leading lady. Jennifer O'Neill had been a top model with small roles in a couple of previous pictures when he cast her in his Western. He later said the leading role went to her head and, although still a relative unknown, she arrived on set with an entourage and the attitude of a major star. Hawks became so fed up with what he perceived as her uncooperative nature and lack of experience that he cut her out of the ending and gave her lines to a supporting player, Sherry Lansing (the same Sherry Lansing who later became the very successful head of 20th-Century-Fox and later Chairman of Paramount Pictures). Not that he left Lansing alone either. She has noted how he made her lower her voice and tailor her image to be a reflection of an earlier unforgettable Hawks discovery Lauren Bacall. "He attempted to control every aspect of your life, how you dressed, what you did in your spare time. ... In his world, you were required to be the image, not the person."
Hawks had issues with the remainder of his leading cast as well. Jorge Rivero, a Mexican star making only his second American picture, was deemed by the director as too slow and unappealing. Christopher Mitchum was no more than a substitute for his famous father (and Wayne's El Dorado co-star) Robert Mitchum, who Hawks failed to entice into the picture. Even Wayne came under some criticism. The two had worked well and often together since Hawks first cast the actor in Red River, an important milestone in Wayne's career as both an actor and a Western star. But Wayne was now in his 60s and already suffering from the cancer that would kill him nine years later. "Wayne had a hard time getting on and off his horse," Hawks told Bogdanovich about the production. "He can't move like a big cat the way he used to. He has to hold his belly in; he's a different kind of person."
Hawks was assisted on this project by two great Western veterans. William Clothier had been the cinematographer on five of John Ford's films and an Oscar nominee for The Alamo (1960), directed by Wayne. Legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, whose career encompassed nearly 200 pictures between 1915 and 1975, served as second unit director and uncredited stunt coordinator. This was only his second venture with Hawks (after Rio Bravo), but Canutt had stunt doubled on more than 35 Wayne movies since 1932.
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Leigh Brackett, Burton Wohl
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Editing: John Woodcock
Production Design: Robert Emmet Smith
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: John Wayne (Col. Cord McNally), Jorge Rivero (Capt. Pierre "Frenchy" Cordona), Jennifer O'Neill (Shasta Delaney), Jack Elam (Phillips), Sherry Lansing (Amelita).
by Rob Nixon
George Plimpton, 1927-2003
George Plimpton, 1927-2003
Don't you worry Ketcham. You're gonna be the FIRST to die!- Phillips
Ketcham, we promised you in a trade. But we didn't say what CONDITION you'd be in!- Col. Cord McNally
I should've taken you this morning!- Sheriff Tom Hendricks
You should'a TRIED!- Col. Cord McNally
Mr. Phillips; you watch Ketchum while we go inside.- McNally
Sure thing, Colonel. If you hear a loud noise, it'll be Mr. Ketchum dyin'.- Phillips
Dammit, Mr. Phillips! Don't you know any other songs?- McNally
I don't know this one. That's why I keep practicin'.- Phillips
Don't I get a beer?- Phillips
Not as long as you're playin' that harp.- McNally
I'll put it up! (throws harp in the trashcan) What about Ketchum; he don't get no beer, does he?- Phillips
Writer and reporter George Plimpton was cast in a minor role in this film (4th Gunman) while collecting research on the film industry.
Location scenes filmed in Arizona and Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Released in United States November 6, 1970
Released in United States Winter December 16, 1970
"Rio Lobo" was Howard Hawks' last film; he died December 26, 1977.
Released in United States November 6, 1970 (Chicago)
Released in United States Winter December 16, 1970