A Cowboy, A Crooner & a Teen Idol: Rio Bravo

Often when I’m in the kitchen, either cooking or doing dishes or baking or painting, I check out the movies on TMC and AMC. It was western month recently, and there was no end to cowboys, horses and shootouts. Yee haw!  A couple of Saturdays ago, I tuned in just as Rio Bravo was starting. I hadn’t seen it in ages, so I clicked on all the TVs and did my chores from room to room while watching.

I can’t be the only one who does this.


My husband and I were talking recently about when we were kids and there was one television in the house, and that television had three channels. Elijah asked me the other day on the way to school, (you know how kids always ask questions about the old days!) “What was on TV when you were a kid? Nickelodean? Cartoon Network?” He couldn’t quite grasp the fact that we had The Mickey Mouse Club on weekdays and cartoons on Saturday morning only. Talk about the dark ages!

Watch a favorite scene here:

But I digress…





Rio Bravo is probably one of the most well known and best loved westerns.  It’s sure  fun, and it’s one of my favorites. It was financially successful for its day, earning over 5.5 million in 1959. Of course what movie staring John Wayne in a cowboy hat wouldn’t have been successful?


It was filmed at Old Tucson Studios just outside Tucson Arizona. During the filming, a saloon, bank building and doctor’s office were added to the western sets. Earlier westerns filmed there were McLintock, and El Dorado, and much later Tombstone and The Quick and the Dead used the same soundstages and sets.

Sources say that because Howard Hawks was offended by High Noon and he didn’t believe the marshal in that film, played by Gary Cooper, would ask the townsfolk for help, so he made Rio Bravo to tell the same story his way.


Here’s the basic plot:

In his efforts to jail the brother of the local bad guy, sheriff John T. Chance, played by John Wayne, enlists the help of a cantankerous cripple named Stumpy, played by Walter Brennan, a disgraced drunk named Dude–probably Dean Martin’s best ever performance, and a singing gunfighter, the adorable Ricky Nelson, to keep custody of a murderer whose powerful rancher brother is trying to help him escape. After a friend is killed trying to muster support for him, they must find a way to hold out against the rancher’s hired guns until the marshal arrives. In the meantime, matters are complicated by the presence of a young gunslinger – and a mysterious beauty who just came in on the last stagecoach.

 I already loved Ricky Nelson from the Ozzie and Harriett show, and to this day I listen to his CDs. He wasn’t such a great actor, but Colorado’s character is great–and we get to hear him sing.

The mysterious poker playing beauty is of course the lovely and very very young Angie Dickenson and John T. Chance’s love interest.

 One of my favorite lines:

John T. Chance: Stumpy?
Stumpy: Yeah?
John T. Chance: Going over to the hotel for a few minutes.
Stumpy: Well, if’n ya don’t come back, me ‘n’ Joe’ll have us a good cry.


And — where else in the annals of filmdom (is filmdom a word?) can you hear Walter Brennan sing?
Because the movie starred a crooner and a teen idol, Hawks included three songs in the soundtrack. Before the big showdown, Martin sings My Rifle, My Pony and Me accompanied by Nelson, after which Nelson sings a brief version of Get Along Home, Cindy, accompanied by Martin and Brennan. John Wayne looks on and smiles. Over the closing credits, Martin sings a specially composed song, Rio Bravo. Call me a sucker for a crooner, but I could listen to Dean Martin’s or Ricky Nelson’s smooth voices any old day.



Rio Bravo Trivia:

There were two remakes of this classic movie:

The first remake, El Dorado, was released in 1967. In this film, Robert Mitchum played the Dean Martin role, Arthur Hunnicutt the Walter Brennan character and James Caan the Ricky Nelson role. Director Howard Hawks again named the Nelson/Caan character after a state (in this case, Mississippi) and in a wry, humorous twist on the original film, Hawks made him inept with firearms, but skilled with a knife.


The second remake, Rio Lobo, was made in 1970 and also directed by Hawks. This was a remake, beginning with a Confederate train robbery of a Union gold shipment during the American Civil War, then moving to a Texas town under siege, which was central to the original film. This film starred John Wayne, Mexican film star Jorge Rivero (as Frenchie), Christopher Mitchum (Robert Mitchum’s son), Jack Elam, and Jennifer O’Neill.


Film footage from Rio Bravo was later incorporated into the opening sequence of John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist, to illustrate the backstory of Wayne’s character.

Ricky Nelson later paid homage to both the film and his character, Colorado, by including the song “Restless Kid” on his 1959 record Ricky Sings Again.


Sources: Internet Movie Database & Wikipedia

 Have you seen Rio Bravo lately?


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34 thoughts on “A Cowboy, A Crooner & a Teen Idol: Rio Bravo”

  1. Hi Cheryl,
    My husband is a big John Wayne fan but I haven’t watched Rio Bravo in some time. That’s a great idea having every TV on the same thing when you’re doing housework. My problem is that I so rarely get an empty house.

  2. ah hang mah head in shame. Ain’t never seen Rio Bravo.

    Even with a Dad who was a huge fan of The Duke. Oh, wait a minute. I didn’t like much of anything my dad did back then. 😉

    Times have changed though, I’ve fallen in love with westerns so I’ll have to check out your movie recommendation.

    after I do that research on Galaxy Quest! 🙂

  3. LOL. I just watched Rio Bravo a couple of weeks ago. too. We were probably watching it at the same time! It was the first time I ever watched and I loved it.

    We also watched Support Your Local Sheriff, which is just too funny. James Garner was quite the cutie!

  4. Maureen, my brother is the John Wayne fan in my family.

    *lizzie, you and I have watched too much Galaxy Quest lately! But I will watch it any time it’s on.

    Taryn, James Garner was a hottie! Can you remember the television show Maverick?

  5. Nope, I’m a bit too young to remember that, but I did love him in the movie Maverick. Of course, in the movie, Mel Gibson plays Bret Maverick and James Garner plays his father, but I knew Bret was originally James’ role on the show.

  6. Good morning Cher – No wonder that John Wayne movie was such a big hit. It starred THE DUKE, for western buffs, starred Dean Martin (and I agree, his best movie role EVER) for the ladies in the audience and Ricky Nelson with his baby face and big eyes, for the teen girls. All in all, something for everyone! Oh, I forgot to mention Angie Dickinson, whom my very own father had a crush on back in the day!
    Great post and I always enjoy trivia!

  7. My Dad’s a colossal John Wayne fan, so Rio Bravo is one I’ve seen a couple of time. That Ricky Nelson was so dreamy – but dang, I had forgotten how much hair he had in this movie LOL.

  8. I’ve been trying to post all morning. Hope this goes through.

    I haven’t seen Rio Bravo in a long time. I love El Dorado. I thought James Caan not being able to shoot was so funny. And when he recited that poem, riding along in the wagon with John Wayne I just loved that moment.
    El Dorado
    by EA Poe

    “Over the Mountains Of the Moon,
    Down the Valley of the Shadow,
    Ride, boldly ride,”
    The shade replied —
    “If you seek for El Dorado.”

  9. Cheryl: Ricky was getting in touch with his inner long-haired hippie at the garden party. I’m wondering how much product they had to put in his hair while filming Rio Bravo 😉

  10. Cheryl,

    Thanks for bringing back a whole slew of wonderful memories. Rio Bravo is one of my all-time favorite TV western movies. Like you, I can listen to Ricky Nelson and Dean Martin all day long. Their voices are smooth as silk. And of course, I LOVE John Wayne! What a man. I watch it every chance I get.

  11. Morning Cheryl, I haven’t see Rio Bravo for awhile, but I did see Rio Lobo a couple weeks ago. I guessed that Christopher was Robert Mitchum’s son by his looks and voice although I didn’t surf the web to confirm it, so thanks for doing it for me. 🙂

    You know, every time I think of Robert Mitchum, I think of that movie he was in where he was a gunslinger but pretended to be a preacher. His Bible looked normal but when he opened it, the innards had been cut away so he could hide a gun in there. Anybody know what movie this was?

  12. Anita, it’s not ringing a bell for me, but I googled and found Tbe Night of the Hunter. Is that it? Here’s what the site said:

    Robert Mitchum’s role was inspired by the real-life character of Harry Powers, known nationally as “the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell” (outside of Clarksburg) and West Virginia’s most famous mass murderer, who was hanged on March 18, 1932, at the West Virginia Penitentiary. Powers was convicted of killing Asta B. Eicher, a widow, along with her three children, and another widow, Dorothy Lemke of Massachusetts in the early 1930s.

  13. Hi Linda and Mary! Smooches!

    I had trouble for about an hour and couldn’t even get this page to pull up at all today. Hope others aren’t having issues getting in. 🙂

  14. Nope, Cheryl, that’s not it.

    It was a western and had a couple other big names. Okay, let me check…

    Got it! It was 5 Card Stud (1968) and he played the part of The Rev. Jonathan Rudd. The movie also starred Dean Martin. If I may, here’s the summary:
    After a card shark is caught cheating, he is taken out and lynched by the drunkards he was playing against. Soon afterwards, the men who were in the lynch mob start being murdered, one after another; all by hanging. Who will be killed next and who is responsible? Is it one of the original party seeking to cover their accursed deed, or perhaps the mysterious Rev. Jonathan Rudd, who has recently arrived in town? Written by Alfred Jingle

    I guess that’s why I always seem to remember a card game right after I remember the special Bible.

    I was about 12 yrs old when I saw this movie and it made an impact on me. I think it’s b/c I always remember the sacrilege of having a gun in the Good Book.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing this movie again.

  15. Cheryl, thank you for that wonderful serenade by Dean Martin and Ricky! I loved that.

    My neighbor does a great imitation of Walter Brennan and that cackly laugh. Cracks me up all the time. I loved Rio Bravo!

    Yeah, wasn’t Angie Dickinson gorgeous? And I admit I had a thing for Ricky…and Dean, too. Never had a crush on the Duke, although I loved his movies.

  16. I have always been a John Wayne fan and have seen almost all of his films.
    Watched Rio Bravo again a couple of weeks ago.

  17. Finally, I’ve gotten through to your site! This morning I just could not get a connection!

    Rio Bravo is one of the great favorites in this
    house. Of course, any thing John Wayne is golden in
    this family! Every one of the actors in this film was so very good in their roles. I can’t even think
    of anyone else filling their boots!

    Pat Cochran

  18. Hey, you brought it all back, Cheryl. I never realized those other movies were remakes. I saw them all. Loved the part where they were sitting there listening to that amazing trumpet music that played all night.
    And did anybody mention that Walter Brennan actually made a record? He talked more than sang, but it was a big hit. Something called, “The Shifting, Whispering Sands.” And it had a flip side that was good, too, but I can’t remember how it went. Loved that old guy. 🙂

  19. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Cheryl and all. Didn’t recall this particular song nor know about 2 remakes so now I do. Saw a 1958 Maverick yesterday, YES, James was a hottie! and still was in ’85 Murphy’s Romance w/ Sally Field. Am partial to Mr Brennan and James Caan, as well the Duke and Ricky; Dean had such a smo-o-oth voice!
    I think of you fillies when I catch the Western Channel.

  20. Yes, I tried until noon before I finally got on.

    And I’m so glad I did. Thanks for the info on the TCM movies. I’ve suggested 5 Card Stud so I’ll keep an eye out.

  21. One of my favorites because it starred my favorites! The Duke and Ricky Nelson! Could it get any better than that?

  22. Wow, I wish I’d been able to get to the computer sooner today. I fell in love with Rio Bravo the first time I saw it and now own it on DVD. I watch it at least three times a month. I also got three cd’s-one called “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me” for the title song, “Wand’rin’ Star” for “Get Along Home”, and “From Alamo to El Dorado” to get “Witchita” by Tex Ritter. All three cds are wonderful and my mom, aunt, and I had a lot of fun listening to them.

    I agree with the others who said this was one of Dean Martin’s best performances.

  23. I love the John Wayne movies, I do love the romance books on the old west. I just watched the Rio Bravo a couple of weeks ago. We use to live out in the country but had to move to the big city (LA Ca) for my hubby’s job I hate it here I wnat the country back!
    Happy reading!

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