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Rio Grande
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Merian C. Cooper
John Ford
Written by James Warner Bellah
James K. McGuinness
Starring John Wayne
Maureen O'Hara
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Bert Glennon
Archie J. Stout
Editing by Jack Murray
Distributed by Republic
Release date(s) November 15, 1950
Running time 105 minutes
Country  United States
Language English

Rio Grande is a 1950 western film and the third installment of John Ford's "cavalry trilogy", following two RKO Pictures releases: Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949).

John Wayne stars in all three films, as Captain Kirby Yorke in Fort Apache, then as Captain of Cavalry Nathan Cutting Brittles in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and finally as a promoted Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Yorke in Rio Grande (scripts and production billing spell the York/Yorke character's last name differently in Fort Apache and Rio Grande).

The film is based on a short story "Mission With No Record" by James Warner Bellah, that appeared in the The Saturday Evening Post on September 27, 1947, and the screenplay was written by James Kevin McGuinness.[1][2]



Ford wanted to make The Quiet Man first, but Republic Pictures studio president Herbert Yates, insisted that Ford make Rio Grande first, using the same combination of Wayne and Maureen O'Hara; Yates did not feel that the script of The Quiet Man was very good, and wanted Rio Grande to be released first to pay for The Quiet Man. (To Yates's surprise The Quiet Man, on its eventual release in 1952, would become Republic's number one film in terms of box office receipts.)

The film was shot in Monument Valley, and other locations in southeastern Utah around the town of Moab and along the Colorado River.[3]


In Rio Grande, Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke is posted on the Texas frontier to defend settlers against depredations of marauding Apaches. Col. Yorke is under considerable stress between the Apaches using Mexico as a sanctuary from pursuit and by a serious shortage of troops of his command.

Tension is added when Yorke's son (whom he hasn't seen in fifteen years), Trooper Jeff Yorke (Claude Jarman Jr.), is one of 18 recruits sent to the regiment. He has flunked out of West Point and immediately enlisted as a private in the Army. Not wanting to give any impression that he is showing favoritism towards his son, Col. Yorke ends up being harsher dealing with Jeff than the others. By his willingness to undergo any test and trial, Jeff is befriended by a pair of older recruits, Travis Tyree (Ben Johnson) (who is on the run from the law) and "Sandy" Boone (Harry Carey, Jr.), who take him under their wings.

With the arrival of Yorke's estranged wife, Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara), who has come to take the under-age Yorke home with her, further tension is added. During the war, Yorke had been forced by circumstances to burn Bridesdale, his wife's plantation home in the Shenandoah valley. Sgt. Quincannon (Victor McLaglen), who put the torch to Bridesdale, is still with Yorke and provides a constant reminder to Kathleen of the episode. In a showdown with his mother, Jeff refuses her attempt by reminding her that not only the commander's signature is required to discharge him, but his own as well, and he chooses to stay in the Army. The tension brought about in the struggle over their son's future (and possibly the attentions shown to her by Yorke's junior officers) rekindles the romance the couple once felt for each other.

Yorke is visited by his former Civil War commander, Philip Sheridan (J. Carrol Naish), now commanding general of his department. Sheridan has decided to order Yorke to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico in pursuit of the Apaches, an action with serious political implications since it violates the sovereignty of another nation.

If Yorke fails in his mission to destroy the Apache threat he faces the threat of court-martial. Sheridan, in a quiet act of acknowledgment of what he is asking Yorke to risk, promises that the members of the court will be men "who rode down the Shenandoah" with them during the Civil War. Yorke accepts the mission. Now Col. Yorke must fight to save, and put back together, his family and his honor.


Some aspects of the story, notably the regiment's crossing into Mexico, and undertaking a campaign there, loosely resemble the expedition conducted by the 4th Cavalry Regiment (United States) under Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie in 1873.


Actor Role
John Wayne Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke
Maureen O'Hara Kathleen Yorke
Ben Johnson Trooper Tyree
Claude Jarman Jr. Trooper Jeff Yorke
Harry Carey Jr. Trooper Daniel "Sandy" Boone
Victor McLaglen Sgt. Maj. Quincannon
Chill Wills Dr. Wilkins
J. Carrol Naish Gen. Philip Sheridan
Grant Withers Deputy Marshal
Peter Julien Ortiz Capt. St. Jacques
Gaylord Pendleton Capt. Prescott
Karolyn Grimes Margaret Mary


The film contains folk songs led by the Sons of the Pioneers, one of which is Ken Curtis (Ford's son-in-law and best known for his role as Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke).


  1. ^ "Mission With No Record". - The Saturday Evening Post. - volume 220, number 13. - September 27, 1947. - Retrieved 2008-07-21
  2. ^ Rio Grande at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Filming locations for Rio Grande. - IMDb. - Retrieved 2008-07-21

External links



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