The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival returns with a nod to Warner Bros. and the world-premiere restoration of a defining Wayne-led Western.
Written by Jenn Thornton
Hollywood turns on “action!” So, this season, hot on the heels of the Oscars in March is the arrival of spring, the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival. Held in the heart of Hollywood, the motion picture extravaganza returns April 13-16 with a full lineup of programming and events, with a special spotlight on the 100th anniversary of Warner Bros., simply branded the WB100. This includes showing of films central to the studio’s history, including fan and filmmaker favorite, Rio Bravo.
If Warner Bros. is one of the original Big Five movie studios—along with MGM, RKO, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures—that defined Hollywood’s Golden Age, then John Wayne is unquestionably one of the biggest legends to emerge from the Hollywood machine, transcending the screen to impact American culture at large. From his early film appearances in the 1920s to his last leading-man role in 1976, Wayne left a host of unforgettable characters in his wake, including Rio Bravo’s small-town Texas sheriff John T. Chance.
Released on April 4, 1959, after a New York opening, Rio Bravo was based on the short story “A Bull by the Tail” by B.H. McCampbell—the real-life daughter of the film’s director Howard Hawks. Shot in Technicolor at the Old Tucson movie set in Arizona, the film allies Wayne’s badly outgunned, duty-driven lawman with a ragtag group of associates, including Dean Martin’s town drunk Dude, Ricky Nelson’s young gunslinger Colorado, and Walter Brennan’s cranky old man Stumpy, enlisted to help him hold off the hired guns of a ruthless foe until help arrives—a crowd-pleasing blueprint to this day.
Rio Bravo was a box office success for Warner Bros. and a personal one for Hawks who came to the film after the failure of his epic Land of the Pharaohs left him in a four-year funk. “He thought maybe he had lost it,” wrote late film critic Roger Ebert of the director in his “Great Movies” review of Rio Bravo. When Hawks returned to work on the film in 1958, he continued, “he was 62 years old, would be working on his 41st film and was so nervous on the first day of shooting that he stood behind a set and vomited. Then he walked out and directed a masterpiece.” Ebert went on to praise Wayne’s performance as one of his best, and also highlighted his “surprisingly warm romantic chemistry” with Angie Dickinson, who played the feisty Feathers (scoring a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year for her trouble). The film also became incredibly influential to the auteurs of our era. As Ebert remarked, “John Carpenter would remake it as Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and directors from Scorsese to Tarantino to Stone would directly reference it.”
Now, in keeping with its You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: Celebrating Film Legacies theme, TCM Classic Film Festival will do its part to honor Rio Bravo—and WB100’s banner year—by hosting the 4Kworld-premiere restoration of the film. True to TCM tradition, all screenings will include special introductions to provide context about the films and the talent that brought them to life.
Best of the fest showings will be held at various venues synonymous with Hollywood history: grand-dame picture house TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX (formerly “Grauman’s Chinese Theatre), the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, TCL Chinese 6 Theatres Multiplex, and the Hollywood Legion Theater at Post 43. Bravo! Festival programming is subject to change. Keep current with details and information as its announced at TCM Classic Film Festival.
Photographs: (homepage) RIO BRAVO, RIO BRAVO US 1959 JOHN WAYNE Date 1959, Photo by: Mary Evans/Warner Bros. Copyright: © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Ronald Grant/Everett Collection (10382340).