As a tribute to the late Maureen O’Hara, Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles will screen Republic’s “Rio Grande,” the final chapter in director John Ford’s Cavalry trilogy (after RKO’s “Fort Apache” and “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon”), on January 12 at 7 pm. While it looks like a Western, complete with Apache attacks, “Rio Grande” is also a delicately acted intimate family drama, as estranged husband and wife Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke (Wayne) and Kathleen Yorke (O’Hara) reunite on the Texas frontier (Ford shot in Monument Valley), where the mother pursues her son Jeff Yorke (Claude Jarman, Jr.) after he signs up to prove himself as a soldier in the cavalry battalion led by his father.
While Ford wanted to make “The Quiet Man” with Wayne, Republic insisted that he first deliver the presumably more commercial “Rio Grande,” marking the first of five movies co-starring Wayne and O’Hara. “Outdoor action at its best, delivered in the John Ford manner,” reviewed Variety back in 1950, while later on Pauline Kael wrote, “Wayne and O’Hara are very effective together, so that the viewer deeply wants the final reconciliation.” Indeed. This is one of the great mature screen romances, in which Wayne delivers his most sensitive performance.
The Western co-stars Ford regulars Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen, Chill Wills, J. Carol Naish, plus Wayne’s son Patrick in his film debut. Jarman, who won a special Oscar for his first film, 1946’s “The Yearling,” as the son of Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman, will do a Q & A after the film. Jarman also starred in “Intruder in the Dust” and after giving up acting he served as executive director of the San Francisco Film Festival and director of Cultural Affairs for the City of San Francisco.