Rio Lobo

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Waned Wayne

RIO LOBO  was a bummer for John Wayne fans in 1970, and there’s hardly anything worth exhuming out of it today, beyond a few moments of mugging from the reliable Jack Elam.  Legendary Duke steerer Howard Hawks tried a third pass at what worked beautifully in 1959 with Rio Bravo and acceptably in 1967 with El Dorado, but his direction is meandering, the story is flatlined, the action boring, the photography diffident, the score listless, and the main supporting players are frankly terrible.

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Gorgeous 22-year old Jennifer O’Neill fired a blank, and Hawks gave up trying to deal with her attitude and basically cut her out of the end of the film. (Next year she made a big impression in Summer of ’42, as well as divorcing the first of eight husbands.) RioLobo_29 Jorge Rivero was a leading man in Mexico, but he’s dead-on-arrival here.

Embarrassing, Wayne’s worst movie since Big Jim McClain, which was at least amusingly cruddy.  Worldwide grosses amounted to $9,300,000, but home on the range was responsible for less than half that, coming in #22 for the year.  114 minutes you’ll sleep through. The advertising tag-line was “Give ’em Hell, John!”–but  someone forget to tell ’em it wasn’t supposed to be given to the audience.

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With Victor French, Christopher Mitchum (go home), Susana Dosamentes, Sherry Lansing, David Huddleston, Jim Davis, Mike Henry, Bill Williams, Robert Donner, George Plimpton, Edward Faulkner, Donald Barry and Hank Worden.  Plimpton was there as a gig to write about (ala Paper Lion) and film a promo featurette which aired on CBS to get us primed for the reteaming of Hawks and Wayne. The featurette was better than the movie.

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Hawks dismally ended a sterling six-decade career not striking paydirt but shoveling a turd.  Pretty—and pretty smart— 26-year old Sherry Lansing ditched acting, plunged into the business end of the biz and ended up running 20th Century-Fox.  Duke recovered with two hits, Big Jake and The Cowboys.

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