Rio Lobo

Rio Lobo is a 1970 American Western film starring John Wayne. The film was the last film directed by Howard Hawks, from a script by Leigh Brackett. The film was shot in Technicolor with a running time of 114 minutes. The musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith and the movie was filmed at Cuernavaca in the Mexican state of Morelos and at Tucson, Arizona.

Rio Lobo
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHoward Hawks
Produced byHoward Hawks
Screenplay by
Story byBurton Wohl
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyWilliam H. Clothier
Edited byJohn Woodcock
Distributed by
Release date
  • December 17, 1970 (1970-12-17) (USA)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[1]
Box office$4.25 million
(North America rentals)[1][2]

It was the third Howard Hawks film varying the idea of a sheriff defending his office against belligerent outlaw elements in the town, after Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966), both also starring John Wayne.


During the final days of the American Civil War, the Union army payroll train is hijacked by Confederates led by Capt. Pierre Cordona and Sgt. Tuscarora Phillips. Their scheme suggests that the Confederates must have gotten detailed inside information about the transport. Col. Cord McNally’s close friend, Lt. Ned Forsythe, is fatally injured in the raid, and during the pursuit McNally’s squad is spread thinner and thinner until he is left on his own. After Cordona and his men capture him, McNally tricks them by leading them into a Union camp and raising the alarm. Cordona and Tuscarora are captured, but will not reveal to McNally the identity of the traitor who sold them the information about the train.

Despite this development, the three men gain a mutual respect for each other, and after the war ends, McNally visits Cordona and Phillips as they are being released. He asks them once more about the traitors, but all they can provide is a physical description. McNally then tells Cordona and Tuscarora that if they should come across these men again, to contact him through a friend of his, Pat Cronin, who is the sheriff of Blackthorne in Texas.

Sometime later, McNally is contacted by Pat on instructions from Cordona, who is staying at the local hotel. When he arrives in Blackthorne, he meets a young woman, Shasta Delaney, who has come to report the murder of her employer by a deputy of Rio Lobo's sheriff, "Blue Tom" Hendricks. Shortly afterwards a posse from Rio Lobo arrives and wants to take Delaney away. Delaney identifies their leader, "Whitey" Carter, as the murderer she was referring to. When one of the posse aims a gun at Cronin, Delaney shoots Whitey from under the table, resulting in a shoot-out in which McNally, Cronin and Cordona finish off the posse.

Cordona, who identifies Whitey as one of the traitors McNally is looking for, tells him that Tuscarora had contacted him and told him that Phillips' father and other ranchers are being bullied by a man named Ketcham, who installed Hendricks as his sheriff after he killed the previous incumbent. McNally, Cordona, and Delaney go to Rio Lobo, where they find the people living in terror of Hendricks and his men. Hendricks has Tuscarora arrested on trumped-up charges, so McNally's group goes to get help from Tuscarora's father, Old Man Philips. McNally, Cordona, and Philips sneak into Ketcham's ranch and take him as a hostage, and McNally discovers that Ketcham is really Union Sergeant Major Ike Gorman, the second traitor he was searching for.

McNally forces Ketcham to sign the title deeds of the ranches back to their rightful owners, then the men retreat to Rio Lobo, where they order Hendricks and his men to vacate the town jail. They take over the building for cover, freeing Tuscarora, while Cordona goes for the cavalry. Meanwhile, Tuscarora's girlfriend Maria Carmen and her friend, Amelita, lend assistance. For that, Hendricks slashes Amelita's face, and Amelita swears to McNally that she will kill Hendricks.

Ketcham's men capture Cordona and offer to trade him for Ketcham. In the meantime, several ranchers turn up to help, knowing that, if McNally fails, the town will have gained nothing from the returned deeds. During the prisoner exchange, Cordona manages to give his captors the slip. McNally yells out that Ketcham is now bankrupt, having signed the deeds back, so the furious sheriff guns Ketcham down, and in turn McNally shoots Hendricks in the leg. McNally then gets shot in his own leg and is dragged back into the cantina where his group is entrenched.

After a failed attempt to blow up the cantina, the remaining bandits are outflanked by the rest of the townspeople, who have rallied to help. Hendrick's men realize that all is lost, and they flee. Hendricks shoots at them, but he has been using his rifle as a crutch and, with its muzzle clogged with dust, it explodes in his face. As he stumbles to his horse, Amelita guns him down, thus keeping her promise and ridding the town of its final menace.



The film was meant to be shot in Durango, Mexico on a budget of $5 million. However shooting on the movie Lawman took up facilities there so Hawks and Cinema Center had to spend an extra $1 million to allow shooting at Old Tucson Studios, and near Los Angeles.[3]

Hawks was injured while filming the railway scene, requiring four stitches.[4]

Hawks said he had to fight Cinema Center to cast Chris Mitchum in the movie.[5]

The script was rewritten throughout production.[6]

Critical reaction

On its release, the film received mostly negative reviews.[7] The only notable positive review came from Roger Greenspun of The New York Times who said that the film was "close enough to greatness to stand above everything else so far in the current season."[7] His comments surprised other critics and resulted in numerous angry letters sent to the newspaper.[7] The performances of Christopher Mitchum, Jorge Rivero and Jennifer O'Neill were also strongly criticized. However, in subsequent years, the film has grown in stature, and currently holds a 71% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film made $4.25 million (USD) in rentals, twentieth among the highest money-making pictures of the year.[7] It was to be Hawks' last film and is considered to be a second, if much looser, remake of Hawks’s and Wayne's classic 1959 film, Rio Bravo. (The first remake was El Dorado, with Wayne and Robert Mitchum).


Rio Lobo
Soundtrack album by
GenreFilm music
LabelPrometheus Records
ProducerJerry Goldsmith

The music for Rio Lobo was composed by Jerry Goldsmith.[8] The soundtrack album was released in Belgium in 2001 on Prometheus Records.[8]

All tracks are written by Jerry Goldsmith.

2."New Arrival / Unexpected Gun"3:03
3."A Good Teacher / Quiet Town / Cantina"9:42
4."Plans / The Raid"7:01
5."Scar / Hang on a Minute / Finale"5:37
6."Main Title"2:16
7."A Good Teacher (Complete)"6:00
8."No Place to Go"1:14
9."Cordona's Capture"0:42
10."The Trade / Retribution / End Title"6:41

See also


  1. Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013, p. 126-130.
  2. "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 48
  3. 'Lawman' Won a Shoot-out With 'Rio Lobo' on Location in Mexico SHIVAS, MARK. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 June 1970: p26.
  4. Howard Hawks Injured The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 28 Mar 1970: C2.
  5. Filmdom's Gray Fox Back on the Job Again: The Gray Fox Is Back at It Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 24 May 1970: s1
  6. John Wayne: A Hollywood Star in Old and Now Days Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 21 June 1970: q17.
  7. McCarthy, Todd. Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood, New York: Grove Press, 1997.
  8. "Rio Lobo (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
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