Rio Grande (1950)

Rio Grande (1950), directed by John Ford.

At a southwest outpost where everyone lives under canvas (does the fort even have a name?) the US Army fights an ongoing war with Apache raiders. Unexpectedly, the long-unseen son of the commander arrives as a raw recruit, closely followed by his mother who wants to fetch him back. Relations between mom & dad are strained: during the war he was North and she was South and, under orders, he burned her farm.

The third of Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy". None are exactly sequels, although they use the same actors, the Monument Valley locations, and even recycle character names. I reviewed Fort Apache (1948) a while ago; we're still waiting for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) on Blu-ray. (Later: now available!)

This is lighter than Fort Apache (1948), being an adventure of fighting the hostile Indians and rescuing kidnapped children, and a family story of estranged husband and wife, father and son. It is the first of five pairings of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. She has some good moments: not having seen her husband for 15 years, her expression on encountering his simple army cot is priceless.

We have a couple of instances of the "secret army", irregular operations where men do the right thing outside the boundaries:

It's good to see Chill Wills as the doctor, and Victor McLaglen has a patent on the comically bluff Irish sergeant role, but young Ben Johnson is the standout character as Trooper Travis Tyree.

We have abundant balladeering by the Sons of the Pioneers with Ken Curtis. You can hear the folk roots behind the western music.

Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. The video looks better in motion than in snapshots and often has pretty good detail. Whites are very bright, but the blacks are only occasionally dark. The disc menu has an error: the making-of feature is labeled "High Noon".