Old School Americana & Nostalgia


John Wayne’s ‘Rio Bravo:’ The Duke’s Answer to a Classic Western He Hated

John Wayne’s ‘Rio Bravo:’ The Duke’s Answer to a Classic Western He Hated

John Wayne’s 1959 film Rio Bravo was a direct response to High Noon’s supposed ties to communism. 

The 1950s were highly political times. Society was still rebounding and restructuring from World War II, the Korean War sent troops back overseas for three years, and the Cold War was keeping national security tensions high. 

Because of the instability of the world, hugely polarized politics kept Americans at odds, especially in the entertainment industry. John Wayne was one of the many actors who were open about their beliefs. The Conservative was a follower of McCarthyism, which was a product of the Red Scare. He was so involved with the campaign that he led the anti-communist organization called the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.

High Noon (1952) screenwriter Carl Foreman was famously blacklisted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee in the mid-1950s. Foreman had been a member of the American Communist Party as a young man, and when the government learned of that, it asked him to share the names of the other high-profile members. He refused to out his friends, which earned him the blacklisting and subsequently got him blocked from all the Hollywood studios. 

John Wayne Believed ‘High Noon’ Pushed Anti-American Values

Because of Foreman’s connection to communism, many people—including John Wayne—believed High Noon was an allegory for communism. He also thought the story emasculated men, which went against his societal beliefs. 

“A whole city of people that have come across the plains and suffered all kinds of hardships are suddenly afraid to help out a sheriff because three men are coming into the town that is tough. I don’t think that ever happens in the United States,” he once told Roger Ebert. “If I’d been the marshal, [I would have] just taken my wife and saddled up and rode out of there.” 

Rio Bravo director Howard Hawks also caught “anti-American” and anti-Western vibes from High Noon. So he teamed up with Wayne to film the now-classic film. 

When the movie debuted in 1959, it wasn’t met with high acclaim. It was years before it earned its following, and today, it’s considered one of John Wayne’s best films.