Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rio Bravo (1959)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rio Bravo (1959)

In Howard Hawks' traditional western - conceived as a rebuking response to Fred Zinnemann's High Noon (1952) and its main character Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper); in this film, a self-reliant Sheriff in the town of Rio Bravo, Texas remained a heroic figure who didn't need to beg others for help: [Note: Two similar remakes by Hawks of the film included El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970) - both again starring John Wayne] -

  • in the two and a half-minute opening scene (with no dialogue), many of the major characters were introduced in the El Toro Rojo cantina-saloon in the small Texas town of Rio Bravo (in Presidio County) in the late 1860s; the Sheriff's derelict, alcoholic future (and past) deputy named Dude (Dean Martin) (nicknamed Borachon, meaning "drunk", for his boozing after a jilted romance), a bar-fly desperate for a drink, was being teased for not having money to buy one; at the bar, his antagonist Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), the brother of wealthy, influential, and powerful rancher, tossed a silver dollar into a spittoon to tempt and degrade him

Alcoholic Dude (Dean Martin)

Bad Guy Joe Burdette (Claude Akins)

Spittoon with Silver Dollar
  • as Dude reached into the spittoon, tough Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) kicked it away and looked down at Dude with disgust; afterwards, the spiteful Dude knocked out the Sheriff from behind with an axe handle; during a fistfight between Dude and his antagonist Burdette, the brutish murderer killed an innocent bystander in the saloon, and was soon arrested and jailed by the revived Sheriff (the film's first words: "Joe, you're under arrest"); the Sheriff conditionally deputized Dude if he remained sober
  • other secondary characters were introduced: passing through wagon-train leader Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) with a shipment of fuel oil and dynamite, baby-faced, brave, two pistols-gunslinger greenhorn Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson) who had just arrived in town with the wagon train, and Chance's elderly, toothless, crippled ("game-legged"), jumpy but loyal crippled sidekick Stumpy (Walter Brennan)
  • most of the remaining scenes involved interactions between the characters over a prolonged, multi-day siege period, while Joe Burdette was being held in Chance's jail while his brother Nathan (John Russell) and other hired guns were there to cause trouble and plan a jail-break; the Sheriff explained to Wheeler: "I can't get Joe out or any help in. Those men over there watching us - they're his. I can't make a move without him knowing it"
  • the Sheriff told how he was left to defend the town with only old man Stumpy and the hard-drinking Dude, and Wheeler was astonished: "A game-legged old man and a drunk. That's all you got?...If I ever saw a man holding the bull by the tail, you're it"
  • attractive, independent, strong-minded and alluring stagecoach passenger and gambler's widow, 22 year-old Feathers (Angie Dickinson) arrived in town - she was stranded in the town's Hotel Alamo when the stagecoach had a broken wheel; she immediately and affectionately teased the Sheriff
  • that evening in the hotel, the Sheriff was informed that Wheeler was recruiting deputy assistance to help him by talking to people in town: ("That you should have some more help"); Chance explained he didn't need help: "Anybody that sides in with me right now's liable to find themselves up to their ears in trouble"; when Wheeler suggested using his wagon-train drivers as backup, Chance refused: "Suppose I got them, what'd I have? Some well-meaning amateurs, most of 'em worried about their wives and kids...No, Pat, all I'd be doin' is givin' them more targets to shoot at. A lot of people'd get hurt. Joe Burdette isn't worth it. He isn't worth one of those that'd get killed"
  • in the hotel at the same time, Feathers was playing poker with Colorado and others, and the Sheriff grew suspicious that she was cheating; he followed her up to her room at the end of the game and confronted her as a card cheat: ("You're in trouble, lady"); he produced evidence - three missing aces from the deck of cards being used in the game, and a handbill indicating she had a shady past and reputation due to her association with her wanted gambler-husband; after being accused, she provocatively resisted - to make him embarrassed: "You've made me mad, Sheriff. You didn't ask me if I took those cards. So you're gonna have to prove I've got them. And the only way I know you can do that is to search me...Well, Sheriff, you've got a job to do. Where do you intend to begin?.... You have to prove I've got those cards...(she laughed at him) I think you're embarrassed..."
  • Colorado interrupted the Sheriff and Feathers during their confrontation and claimed that another player was the real cheat; after proving that Colorado's assumption was right and arresting the man, the Sheriff was reluctant to apologize to Feathers for his false accusations about her guilty character: ("I guess I was wrong about you having those cards...I'm not gonna apologize, if that's what you mean...You could quit playing cards wearing feathers"); she refused to give in: "No, Sheriff. No, I'm not gonna do that. You see, that's what I'd do if I were the kind of girl that you think I am"
  • Pat Wheeler was cold-bloodedly murdered in the middle of the street - shot in the back when returning to the hotel by one of Burdette's men hidden in the stable; the Sheriff reacted: "Didn't take 'em long, less than an hour after he offered to help. Don't get many friends like that"; he angrily chastised Colorado for now wanting to help: "You had a chance to get in this and you didn't want it. Stay out, we don't need ya"
  • Chance and Dude pursued the wounded gunman (with muddy boots) into Burdette's saloon, where Dude had the customers unbuckle and drop their gunbelts and show their boots; he noticed blood dripping into a beer mug at the bar, coming from above him in the saloon's loft -- and with a quick reaction, he shot the paid assassin above him: (Dude: "He stepped in a puddle, all right. He's the fella we wanted. I guess this is his. A nice, fresh $50 gold piece. It's just about what Burdette would figure a man's life was worth. That's earnin' money the hard way")
  • Chance then threatened the remainder of Burdette's hired men: "Paid killer. Nice, fresh $50 gold piece....You're all in it. The whole lot of ya. You're gonna get out of town. Take your boy here with you. You can tell Burdette you got Wheeler. You can tell him anybody else he sends, he'd better pay 'em more because they're gonna earn it"); the Sheriff commended Dude for having fooled Burdette's men with his quick-draw, but warned him: "Ya surprised them. But next time they'll be ready for ya. Next time, they'll shoot first and laugh afterwards"

Dude Confronting Saloon Customers

Blood Dripping into Beer Mug From Above

Dude Shooting Gunman in Loft
  • in the hotel later that night, the Sheriff and Feathers spoke about her dead husband, whom she admitted cheated due to her: "He liked to buy me things" - he left her rather suddenly and was shot dead: ("his luck had run out"); she confessed that four months earlier: "I didn't know about - that he was cheating until they caught him"; that evening, she voluntarily kept watch in a chair at Chance's hotel door until morning; according to the hotel-keeper Carlos (Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez): "She was sitting outside your room in a chair...All night long...She told me not to wake you, senor"; perturbed, Chance spoke to Feathers in her room where she confirmed her concern for him - and his continual refusal of any assistance: "You don't want anyone to help you"; he insisted that she still leave town in an hour: "You've got to get on that stagecoach"; after he left, she muttered to herself: "You try to help someone who doesn't want any help"
  • land-baron rancher-brother Nathan Burdette arrived in town and was forced to disarm by a forceful Dude standing guard, who was confiscating all weapons while visitors were in town; Dude showed his determination (and sober gun-shooting skill) by shooting the reins from one resistant hired hand - impressing Burdette who also threatened: "You're pretty good with that gun when you're sober...Every man should have a little taste of power before he's through"

Dude Confiscating the Weapons of Burdette and His Men

Nathan Burdette (John Russell)
Burdette Confronting the Sheriff
  • while Nathan Burdette was visiting his brother Joe in jail, the Sheriff explained how Joe was appropriately arrested and jailed for murder (for shooting an innocent unarmed bystander) - and then denounced the two for taking over the town while awaiting the arrival of the US Marshal: "I don't like a lot of things. I don't like your men sittin' on the road bottlin' up this town. I don't like your men watchin' us, tryin' to catch us with our backs turned. And I don't like it when a friend of mine offers to help - and 20 minutes later, he's dead! And I don't like you, Burdette, because you set it up...I'm gonna sit here with your brother in my lap until the United States Marshal gets here. That'll be about six days"
  • that same morning, Feathers refused to leave town on the stagecoach, although the Sheriff had insisted that she leave; when he asked why she didn't go, she answered: "Don't make me tell you why I stayed...I won't make it any harder for you. I won't get in your way. I'll just be here. You don't owe me a thing. And you won't owe me when it's all over. When that happens, just tell me to go, and I'll go. No, you won't even have to tell me. I'll know by then, and I'll just go. Is that fair, John T.? You don't have to answer me now if you don't want to. But just say something" -- he told her things would be different if he wasn't so involved: "If I weren't in this mess, it might be different. But I am"; she answered: "That's all I wanted to hear. (She kissed him - twice) I'm glad we tried it a second time. It's better when two people do it"

Feathers - Refusing to Leave Town

Sheriff: "If I weren't in this mess, it might be different. But I am"

Kissing the Sheriff - Twice
  • Colorado made an evening visit to the jailhouse - where he described the meaning of the Mexican tune - "Cutthroat's Song" - that was heard playing in the saloon (it was requested by Burdette before he left town, signifying his objective: "no mercy for the losers"); Colorado mentioned its historical usage: "The Mexicans played it for those Texas boys when they had them bottled up in the Alamo. Played it day and night till it was all over"
  • that evening, Feathers told the Sheriff that she had been hired by Carlos to "tend bar" in the hotel, and in a very forward way - she proposed that he could sleep in her room that night while she watched over him in a rocking chair: "Tonight you sleep in my room. Anyone looking wouldn't look there first. You'd have more time if anything did happen. Besides, I have a rocking chair, it's more comfortable. Just an idea. You can think about it. When you're in a little better humor"; before going to bed, he carried her up the stairs to her room
  • the next day, Dude was seized and tied up in the stable by four of Burdette's men; three of the hired killers then confronted an unarmed Sheriff Chance in the street, and demanded Joe Burdette be set free from jail; during a shoot-out, Chance was assisted by Feathers who threw a flowerpot out the hotel's front-porch window as a distraction, so that Colorado could get onto the porch and throw Chance a rifle and help defend them - three of Burdette's hired men were killed in the street, and the 4th was shot fleeing; the hog-tied and gagged Dude was released in the stable by the Sheriff [Note: Each of the four men were discovered with two new $ 50 gold pieces in their pockets - the Sheriff quipped: "Price is going up."]
  • the scene was accompanied by Dude's doubting of himself to the Sheriff; sobered and suffering from withdrawal, he felt useless and rattled by the experience - along with trembling hands: ("A man ought to have sense enough to know when he's no good no more...You've got no use for a man you can't depend on....What can a man do with hands like that?") - and he threatened to quit; the Sheriff reacted: "Go on back to the bottle, get drunk!" and insisted that he wouldn't ever help him again ("Maybe you're right. Maybe you aren't much good anymore")
  • after the incident, Feathers drunkenly bemoaned the fact that she had unwittingly helped the Sheriff: ("Why'd you make me do it?...You were just gonna get yourself killed, that's all....Somebody had to help you. But you don't want anybody to do that, do you?"); she was also sorry that somehow, she had gotten mixed up in town with "fools" and "idiots"; Colorado suggested to Chance that he might as well become deputized and get paid to fight off the Burdettes, especially since Dude had quit: "If I'm gonna get shot at, I might as well get paid for it. How do I get a badge?"
  • shortly later in the jailhouse, Dude was about to take a drink - and then again heard the "Cutthroat" song playing in the far distance, making his resolve to stay sober stronger than ever; in close-up, he decided, with a steady hand, to perfectly pour the contents of his liquor glass back into the bottle without spilling: ("Didn't spill a drop") - "Shakes are gone just because of a piece of music. Till they played that piece, I forgot how I got into this thing. Keep on playing it, I don't think I'll ever forget again"; he demonstrated that he was reliably cured of his alcoholic shakes and wouldn't quit; Dude asked for a second chance to work - to assist the Sheriff with his own re-purchased guns returned earlier by Chance: ("Been waiting till they fit you again")

Dude's Trembling Hands - Withdrawal Symptoms

Pouring a Drink For Himself

Dude's Resolve to Not Drink - He Poured Liquor Back Into Bottle
  • during a musical interlude sequence in the jailhouse, Dude sang a duet (with Colorado on his guitar) of "My Rifle, My Pony and Me"; Colorado also strummed his guitar accompanying Dude's song "Get Along Home, Cindy" - with Stumpy on harmonica; the group of four decided to camp out in the jailhouse for 3-4 days awaiting the Marshal's arrival
  • the next tactic by Burdette's men was to sneak into the hotel and capture hotel owner Carlos (and his wife) and use them to release Joe from jail; after tripping up Chance on the dark stairs and knocking him unconscious, Dude and Feathers were also taken captive; the revived and reluctant Sheriff was ordered: "We go to the jail and you let Joe go" - and surprisingly, Dude encouraged him to obey and cooperate (his motive was to get them to walk into a trap): "Go on, take them over to the jail, and tell Stumpy to open up and let Joe go"; at the jailhouse, Stumpy (and Colorado) suspected things weren't right, defended the jail and shot all three of Burdette's men; after they heard shooting at the jail, the remainder of Burdette's men back at the hotel took Dude as a hostage
  • a climactic and tense sequence involved Chance's and Colorado's exchange of Joe for Dude at Burdette's creek-side warehouse half an hour after sun-up; as Joe and Dude slowly walked toward each other during the swap of hostages, Dude tackled Joe and they scuffled together on the ground as a major shootout broke out between the two sides
Joe Burdette and Dude Walking Toward Each Other During Hostage Swap
  • a key role was played by Stumpy who suddenly arrived to even the odds, and threw dynamite sticks (from Wheeler's stockpile) at the warehouse where Burdette's men were hidden, as Chance shot the sticks and caused them to explode; Stumpy exclaimed: "Hey dude, how do ya like them apples?...That got 'em. That took a bite out of 'em. Look at 'em quit!"; Burdette's gunmen quickly surrendered: ("Don't shoot, we've had enough"); the few remaining Burdette gunmen were locked up in the jail to await the Marshal: ("Rest of them all cleared out. We won't have any trouble")
  • in the concluding scene, Sheriff Chance was in Feathers' upstairs bedroom, where she was modeling for him a skimpy, sheer black negligee and tights for her new job in the hotel as a singer - and she knew why he was complaining: "Is it because they show so much of me?" - she challenged him about his stubbornness and lack of commitment to her: "You're a stubborn, stubborn man, John T. Sometimes I know what you're thinking. And other times, you just can't make up your mind about me, can you? You like what you see. You like kissing me. You like what you touch. But you decided in the beginning what kind of a girl I was. And I haven't helped much. I wore these before I met you. I wanted you to know it. To know what kind of a girl you were getting. I wanted you to get that funny look on your face and tell me not to wear them. But it didn't work. You didn't even get mad. I told you once you wouldn't have to say anything. That I'd know, but I don't know. So you're gonna have to talk. I'm hard to get, John T. You're gonna have to say you want me"
"I'm hard to get, John T. You're gonna have to say you want me...I've waited so long for you to say that. I thought you were never --- you have the funniest way of saying things"
  • when she started to leave the room, he threatened to arrest her for wearing the negligee and tights in public downstairs: ("Where are you going?...You wear those things in public, I'll arrest ya"); she was touched by his strange expression of love for her, by refusing to have her wear the outfit; it was his way of signaling that he wanted to marry her, and she was agreeable: "I've waited so long for you to say that. I thought you were never --- you have the funniest way of saying things. Just when I think you're gonna say one thing..." - he interrupted her and ordered her to remove her tights -- ("Get those darn things off")
  • as she changed out of her outfit behind a screen, she admitted that her whole act was a ploy to get him to be romantic with her (in her words, to say 'that you loved me'); she asked directly: "Tell me something. These tights, now why didn't you want me to wear them?" - he answered: "Because I didn't want anybody but me to see you in them"; she was pleased with his answer and then asked: "Oh, I like that. You're getting better already. Shall I...? Shall I save them and wear them just for you?"
  • in the final moments of the film, the Sheriff answered by tossing her negligee out the window, and it fell at the feet of Dude and Stumpy who were walking along - they commented with the film's final lines: (Stumpy: "Do you think I'll ever get to be a Sheriff?" Dude: "Not unless you mind your own business")

Sheriff John Chance (John Wayne)

Deputized Dude (Dean Martin)

Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond)

Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson)

Stumpy (Walter Brennan)

Sheriff with Wheeler - Who Noted Chance's Only Defense: "A game-legged old man and a drunk"

Feathers (Angie Dickinson)

Chance Refusing Wheeler's Volunteered Help

Poker-Playing Feathers

Feathers Confronted by the Sheriff for Card-Cheating: "Search me"

After Wheeler's Murder, The Sheriff Harshly Rebuked Colorado's Offer: "Stay out, we don't need ya"

The Sheriff Confronted Burdette's Men in Saloon: "You're gonna get out of town"

Feathers At the Hotel Bar with the Sheriff

Feathers in Her Room the Next Morning with the Sheriff

In the Jail, The Sheriff Denounced the Burdettes

Hotel Front Porch Shootout Against Three of Burdette's Men

Colorado's Song: "Get Along Home, Cindy"

The Sheriff Forcibly Led to the Jailhouse by Three of Burdette's Men, to Release Joe

Joe Burdette Let Out of Jail for Hostage Trade (for Dude)

The Sheriff at the Burdette Warehouse to Arrange Trading Dude for Joe

Climactic Shootout at Burdette's Warehouse - Stumpy Hurling Exploding Dynamite

Feathers - With Her Black Negligee/Tights in Her Hand: "Shall I save them and wear them just for you?"

Stumpy and Dude on the Street with the Negligee


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