Chief Yowlatchie as Quo
Ray Hyke as Walt Jergens
as Old Leather
A young Tom Dunson, along with his fiance Fen and best friend Groot set out with a wagon train
to find and create their own ranch out west.
Having decided on a direction divergent from the main course Tom and Groot leave the train and Fen to stake a claim and start the ranch with one bull to begin the cattle herd with.
Shortly after having left the wagon train
they saw smoke in the distance back from whence they came and heading back found the burnt out wagons of their friends
and Tom's fiance and hearing a noise found a young boy identifying himself as Matt Garth who had with him a single female cow.
Dunson took the boy, his cow and his own bull and headed to the place he claimed as his ranch and began his destiny as cattle baron of the Red River brand empire
As the years progressed Tom, Matt and Groot raised the largest herd of cattle anyone had ever created yet considering their remote location made them cattle rich and cash poor so they needed to drive the herd to the railroad for market to the large cities back east to sell or they would lose everything.
Shortly after leaving to travel to Texas to start his dreams of being a cattle rancher, Thomas Dunson learns that his wife and child were killed along with everyone in the wagon train
they were with, except one small boy. Dunson encounters the Indians who had committed the horrible deed and dispatched them. Dunson adopts the boy named Matt, and make it across the Red River and into Texas. Once there Dunson claims the land for himself, in spite of the protests of some Mexican ranchers.
Fourteen years later, Matt has grown into a young man, and the cattle ranch is growing. However, due to the South's economic hardship after the Civil War, Dunson is having a hard time finding a good price for his cattle and he decides to drive the cattle north to Missouri where the prices will be better.
The cattle drive is plagued with hardships, not the least of which is Dunson's own harsh leadership. After one of the chuck wagons is destroyed and the men press on without coffee and nothing to eat but beef, Dunson discovers two men who had deserted, stealing some flour. Dunson's response is to lynch the two men, but Matt rebels against his adopted father with the help of some of the other cowhands. Matt takes control of the cattle drive and leaves Dunson with his horse and some supplies.
Matt decides to take the cattle drive to Abilene, Kansas, much closer than Missouri. Along the way he rescues a wagon train
from an Indian attack and Tess Millay falls for Matt. After they spend the night together, Matt leaves to press on ahead of the wagon train
, setting up a repeat of the event that brought him and his adopted father together.
Tess encounters Dunson, who opens up to her, but he continues his hunt to find and kill Matt. Matt reaches Abilene, and gets a great offer on the cattle. Dunson arrives shortly after and challenges Matt, who is wounded. Can Tess stop Dunson from killing his adopted son?
The original story for Red River was written by Borden Chase in 1946 and published in the Saturday Evening Post. The story was called Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail.
In the original story in the Saturday Evening Post, Valance shoots Dunson dead in Abilene and Matt takes his body back to the Red River Ranch.
Red River was filmed in 1946 but not released until 1948.
Footage from Red River appears as part of the back-story montage at the beginning of Wayne's final film, The Shootist
Red River was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Motion Picture Story.
was reported to be rather impressed with John Wayne
's acting in Red River. Upon seeing the film Ford supposedly said, "I didn't know the big son of a bitch could act!"
Just before the release, eccentric millionaire and filmmaker Howard Hughes
filed an injunction on the film claiming the climactic battle at the end of Red River was the same as a gunfight
Hughes’ film The Outlaw
which director Howard Hawks
had worked on in 1940. Hawks cut 28 seconds
from the scene and Hughes dropped the injunction.
A directors cut of Red River was released in 1987 which put back the 28 seconds
that was cut due to Hughes' injunction as well as about 6 more minutes of footage.
, Joanne Dru
and Walter Brennan
reprised their roles for a radio adaptation
for Lux Radio Theater on March 7, 1949.