John Wayne and Dean Martin... Image: We Have Embarked

John Wayne and Dean Martin fight crime in the Old West. Image: We Have Embarked

In our childhood, we had disdain for Westerns. All that aimless shooting and hiding behind rocks and kicking up dust seemed, to us, the Most Boring Thing In The World.

But one day we were asked to watch the 1959 Western, Rio Bravo. We felt we couldn’t refuse without causing offence, so we begrudgingly complied.

We loved it.

Rio Bravo dislodged many of our hardened opinions of Westerns, namely:

  1. Costumes are unimaginative.
  2. Characters (especially women) are one dimensional.
  3. Dialogue is not clever.
  4. Plots are uninteresting.
  5. John Wayne has no comedic timing.

Rio Bravo proved us Totally Wrong about all these things.

The film stars John Wayne as a sheriff who has captured a weasley member of a sneaky, violent gang, a fellow named Joe Burdette (Claude Akins). While Akins is held behind bars, his fellow gang members keep watch on the jail, watching for opportunities to free him.

The film also stars Walter Brennan as a jailhouse assistant, Angie Dickinson as a gambler wanted by authorities, and Ricky Nelson as a cowboy who’s just passin’ through.

One of the most interesting characters in the film, and one on whom we immediately developed a crush, is played by Dean Martin.

Don't do it, Dean! Image: madhulikaliddle.com

Don’t do it, Dean! Image: madhulikaliddle.com

At the start of the film, Martin’s character is not one you’d bring home to meet Mother. He’s a dishevelled inebriate who’s been given the Spanish nickname Borrachón (meaning “drunk”).

When the film opens, Martin enters a saloon, desperate for a drink. He’s unshaven, nervous, sweating. He slinks along the wall, staring hungrily at a whiskey being poured at the bar. When the man at the bar sees him, he smiles and throws a coin into the spittoon. Martin bends down to retrieve it.

Clearly, Martin is someone with a bit of a problem. He’s also a sheriff’s deputy, so it’s actually a big problem.

But John Wayne, Sheriff and Boss Of Everyone, has not given up on Martin. He knew Martin before his alcoholic tailspin and still respects his expertise. Even though Martin operates in a whiskey-soaked haze, he’s a far better shot than most fellows in town.

Because John Wayne believes in him, we believe in him too.

There are a lot of intriguing subplots in this film, one of which is Martin’s determination to Quit Drinking. Martin displays many of the symptoms of withdrawal, including shaking, anxiety and sleeplessness.

Aside from that, he’s thrown a bottle of beer at Akins, yelled at Brennan to Shut Up and slapped Wayne’s face. Yet neither Brennan nor Wayne reject him. “He’s gotta sweat it out,” says Wayne. “Be nice to him and he’ll fall apart in small pieces.”

Through all this, we see glimpses of Martin’s famous celebrity character, and that gives us hope.

Ahh! Nothing like a good shave. Image: Shave_Close

Ahh! Nothing like a good shave. Image: Shave_Close

Martin shows us recovery is not an easy task. He makes a critical mistake in dealing with the violent gang, and becomes filled with self loathing. “I’m real good when I’m sober,” he says bitterly.

However. His hands stop shaking and he’s able to joke about his troubles. He has a bath and a shave, and changes his clothes. He asks John Wayne to get rid of a bottle of whiskey.

We know that his Dean Martin has been Restored to his charming self when he, Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan have a merry jam session.

With his amusing demeanor and dazzling smile, it was easy for us to develop an instant crush on the post-restoration Martin…even if he was in a Western.

Rio Bravo: starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson. Directed by Howard Hawks. Written by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1959, Technicolor, 140 mins.

This post is part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon hosted by Font and Frock and yours truly. Click HERE to see today’s fab entries.

Reel Infatuation Banners

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

37 Comment on “The Restored Dean Martin

  1. Pingback: #ReelInfatuation Blogathon: Day 3 – Silver Screenings

  2. Pingback: #180 Rio Bravo – 1000 Films Blog

Start Singin', Mac!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: