leaving nothing to chance
by Douglas Messerli
The first of Howard Hawks' western trilogy, representing some of the last films he directed in his long career, Rio Bravo is perhaps the best and most complex, despite what at first appears to be a light-weight cast. The idea of crooner Dean Martin, young singing-idol Ricky Nelson, ingénue Angie Dickinson (playing the role of a hardened gambling woman), and an slightly overweight John Wayne teaming up to help save a small border town from the clutches of the evil rancher Nathan Burdette seems, on the surface, almost ludicrous; and there were still titters in the audience at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's late Hawks' retrospective that justify those feelings. Nearly all film critics agree, however, that Rio Bravo one of the better westerns in film history.