Red River (Howard Hawks-United Artists). When people discuss the real art ists in picturemaking, they seldom get around to mentioning Howard Hawks. Yet Hawks is one of the most individual and independent directors in the business. Even when he has a vapid chore to do, he gives it character; when a picture really interests him, he gives it enough character to blast you out of your seat. Red River, which Hawks produced and directed, clearly interested him a lot. It is a rattling good outdoor adventure movie.
Red River is a yarn about the first cattle drive over the Chisholm Trail, from deep Texas into Abilene, Kans., soon after the Civil War. It is also the story of the fierce character duel which develops, along the way, between the tyrannical boss cattleman (John Wayne) and his intransigent foster son (Montgomery Clift). Mr. Clift takes time out for a little romance with a "dancing girl"*(Joanne Dru), but essentially this is a movie about men, and for men.
The story originally appeared in the Satevepost and, in many respects, is just an average piece of hack fiction. But it is worked out with sincerity and vigor, and is amenable to movie treatment. Director Hawks gives even the relatively silly episodes with the girl a kind of roughness and candor which make them believable and entertaining. And when Hawks concentrates on men working, or contesting leadership, or merely showing what they are made of, the picture practically blows up with vitality and conviction.
There is a constant illusion that you are watching an extraordinary effort to get cattle across a certain immense expanse of difficult and threatening country, that you are learning a lot about how such a job feels and gets done, and that the perpetually wrangling players are important not so much of themselves, but because the whole success or failure of the attempt depends on these people. The attempt is really the story, and the "background" is really the hero of the piece, and its villain.
Hawks obviously likes and understands men, grand enterprise, hardship, courage and magnificent landscape. The greatest satisfaction of this picture is continuous and unobtrusive. It is the constancy with which all outdoors, and all human endurance of it and effort to conquer it, keeps bulging the screen full of honest and beautiful vitality, like a steady wind against a well-trimmed sail.
Red River is not only a fulfillment for Director Hawks, it is a high promise for Actor Montgomery Clift, who plays the thorny young man with a fresh blend of toughness and charm. This is Cliffs first picture, though his second, The Search (TIME, March 29), was released ahead of it. No one "discovered" Monty Clift jerking sodas or selling shoes. Twenty-eight years old this month, he has spent half his life in the theater ( The Skin of Our Teeth, The Searching Wind, There Shall Be No Night). He is that rare bird with both screen personality and acting talent. Rarer still for a newcomer, he is getting his own way about contracts. He refused to play pretty juveniles or mannikins, and the dread of being "owned" by Hollywood made a seven-year contract no more inviting than the seven-year itch.