Cleveland International Film Festival } March 22 – April 1, 2023 } Playhouse Square


Year: 1948
Country: United States
Run Time: 127 minutes


A basic in the films of Howard Hawks is one of conflict between men and their physical surroundings, often resulting from the conscious will of a character to bring his environment under his personal control. In RED RIVER, this theme finds one of its most explicit and comprehensive treatments. The film is divided into two time segments separated by a hiatus of some 14 years, but both revolving around the desire of Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) to control the land. In the first part, we see Dunson staking his claim to a vast expanse of what seems to be desolate, worthless land and evidencing his iron will to preserve his dominion over that land. At the same time, he also adopts an orphaned child, Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn; later, Montgomery Clift), as his son. At the opening of the second section, it at once appears that Dunson's dreams, so emphatically stated, but with little substance at the beginning, have materialized completely; he has built an enormous beef-cattle ranch. But his conflict with the environment, far from ending with this seeming triumph, is only beginning once more. The inability of Dunson to get a good price for his cattle in Texas at that time impels him to decide to drive the herd to Missouri, a task of monumental difficulty and one never before accomplished. Thus Dunson, never looking back, departs from the domain he has created with his own hands and begins the drive. The hostile forces he encounters on the journey are immense, and their pressures, combined with Dunson's unabated will to control, push him beyond the point of a stable relationship with the people, objects and land around him. What was once strong ambition has now become raging megalomania, and the previously firm grip he seemed to have on his surroundings has vanished entirely. Matt takes over the herd as Dunson's surrogate, leaving Dunson suddenly alone, shorn of life's work, cut off from the realization of his vision. The ensuing dark plotting against and final conflict with Matt, the young man Dunson has raised, becomes inevitable, but the ambiguity of the result is Hawks' expression of the unity of the film's conflicts, denying simple resolution. (U.A.)

Borden Chase and Charles Schnee (based on a novel by Borden Chase)

Howard Hawks, Charles K. Feldman

Russell Harlan

Christian Nyby

Principal Cast
John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan, John Ireland, Noah Beery Jr., Harry Carey Sr., Harry Carey Jr., Hank Warden

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