Howard Hawks’ production and direction give a masterful interpretation to a story of the early west and the opening of the Chisholm Trail, over which Texas cattle were moved to Abilene to meet the railroad on its march across the country.
Also important to Red River is the introduction of Montgomery Clift. Clift brings to the role of Matthew Garth a sympathetic personality that invites audience response.
Hawks has loaded the film with mass spectacle and earthy scenes. His try for naturalness in dialog between principals comes off well. The staging of physical conflict is deadly, equalling anything yet seen on the screen. Picture realistically depicts trail hardships; the heat, sweat, dust, storm and marauding Indians that bore down on the pioneers. Neither has Hawks overlooked sex, exponents being Joanne Dru and Coleen Gray.
Picture is not all tough melodrama. There’s a welcome comedy relief in the capable hands of Walter Brennan. He makes his every scene stand out sharply, leavening the action with chuckles while maintaining a character as rough and ready as the next.
Sharing co-director credit with Hawks is Arthur Rosson. The pair have staged high excitement in the cattle stampedes and other scenes of mass action.
1948: Nominations: Best Motion Picture Story, Editing