“Wayne’s greatest achievement may have been creating John Wayne. The character he played, the character he invented, was the American persona of the man who is hard and believes in doing right and will do it against all the odds.”Charlton Heston on John Wayne
Rio Grande (1950), the third and final film in John Ford’s ‘Cavalry’ trilogy, brought John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara together for the first time on the big screen.John Ford’s filmography is a perfect example of how branding and artist as a right winger or left winger or liberal or conservative is such a foolhardy exercise. Ford has made films that would fit into several political ideologies, sometimes a single film features conflicting political point of views .
but it’s widely accepted that after returning from World War II, Ford made mostly ‘liberal’ movies that took a humane approach towards the depiction of Native Americans and minorities as well as subtly critiquing the racism, class consciousness and imperialist tendencies in post-war American society. It doesn’t mean that he was becoming a left-winger, but may have been merely endorsing values like fairness and decency, which he considered basic to the American system.
Though never consciously intended to be a trilogy, the three Cavalry’ westerns that Ford made back to back from 1948 to 1950- Fort Apache, She wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande– are connected by a uniform theme: the travails of the American cavalry involved in wars with the “Indian Nations” in the aftermath of civil war and through United States’ westward expansion; and also by the presence of John Wayne, who played the lead role in all these three films.
While, the first two are considered two of Ford’s undisputed classics, the history and legacy of the third is more complicated. Ford never intended to be a third film in the trilogy; Ford’s intend was to make another film, his dream project called The Quiet Man which he wanted to ѕһoot in color, and on location in Ireland, which would prove expensive. And despite the fact that he had already lined up John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara to play the lead roles, he couldn’t get financial backing for the project.
That’s when his protégée and frequent collaborator, John Wayne, came to his rescue. Wayne went to Herbert Yates- the head of his home studio, Republic Pictures- and persuaded him that allowing the great John Ford to make The Quiet Man at Republic would add much prestige to the studio. Yates agreed on the condition that Ford first make a film along the lines of his successful “Cavalry” Westerns. So Ford came up with Rio Grande, a relative quickie; to be shot in black and white and in just 32 days in Moab, Utah. The film was treated as an exercise by John Ford- one of his “vacation pictures”.
The budget was half of the production costs for Fort Apache (1948), hence he couldn’t afford to ѕһoot in his favorite “Monument Valley”, and no one, Ford included, seemed to take the project very seriously.Like Fort Apache, Rio Grande was also based on a Saturday Evening Post story by James Warner Bellah. Bellah was a known right-winger who was famous for his extreme views of the Native Americans as well as the communists; he equated the two “reds scares” in his stories which were published at the time when America was gripped with “red phobia” and the film industry was under attack from HUAC.