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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Saturday, April 14, 2012
8:00 p.m. Rio Bravo
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1959)

“Suppose, for the sake of argument, a sheriff (John Wayne) is holed up in his own jailhouse with a surly prisoner, a cantankerous old man (Walter Brennan), a drunk (Dean Martin), a kid named Colorado (Ricky Nelson), and a pair of legs (belonging to Angie Dickinson) looking for black tights? Hawks had done serious Westerns (Red River is as businesslike as 10,000 cattle), but here he sees the light and realizes that the Western is a gateway to paradise. Who cares if the circuit judge never gets to town? Who cares when there are cigarettes to be rolled, songs to be sung, and dialogue routines to be played out. This is not so much a story as a tongue-in-cheek documentary about old friends and a new girl telling a pretty silly story. But how come the silliness falls away and you feel you’re in heaven?”

—David Thomson

• Written by Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett, from a story by Barbara Hawks McCampbell. Photographed by Russell Harlan. With John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Angie Dickinson. (141 mins, Color, 35mm, permission Warner Bros.)