What I like about that scene is it's probably one of the best examples of Hawksian male cameraderie. You have to remember that, in the movie at that time, the bad guys have got the whole town by the neck with all these hired killers. The good guys have just gotta wait. If they can survive for 12 days then the marshall will come and take them away.
The Dean Martin character used to be the big deputy of the town before he became a drunk. He's on the wagon now; he has to rise to the occasion to help John Wayne. And in the scene before this one, he was just gonna pick up the bottle and pour himself a drink - he'd taken off his badge and everything.
The bad guys have been playing this piece of music to drive them crazy - the music that the Mexicans played for the guys inside the Alamo for days and days before they killed them all. So this music starts up and Dean Martin hears it and his shakes just go away. He goes: 'Until they played that music, I forget how I got into this. Now, if they keep playing it, I'll never forget it again.' He's even stronger than he was before]
And the next scene is the song sequence, where they're this powerful unit that can't be beaten. Dean Martin is singing and Ricky Nelson is really cool. Walter Brennan is singing and playing his harmonica, and John Wayne isn't singing, but he's fulfiling his function in the movie: he's smiling. All his men are having a good time and he's enjoying them having a good time. He's appreciating them bonding together for the task they have to face. It's the first point in the movie when they're all together.
When they show Rio Bravo in cinemas, at revival houses, everyone laughs at that scene, because it seems funny nowadays in the movies: people don't burst into song unless it's a musical. Clint Eastwood doesn't suddenly start singing in Unforgiven. And there's no soundtrack music kicking in here; they're just playing the guitar. But that's one of the things I love about it too: it's realistic, but it also calls back a different time period in movies when you could do stuff like that and not think about it twice. When I watch it on video I find that scene moving and very, very charming; I don't laugh at it at all.
Quentin Tarantino's first film, 'Reservoir Dogs', with Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Christopher Penn and Lawrence Tierney, is playing around the country.
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