Monday, January 18, 2016

Hear Dimitri Tiomkin’s Epic Score to the Classic Howard Hawks/John Wayne/Montgomery Clift Western, Red River, in 38 Tracks! (Videos)



By Nicholas Stix
Slightly revised on Monday, February 22, 2016, at 9:10 p.m.

Red River is considered one of the three or four greatest Westerns ever made. It is a fictional telling of the first cattle drive using the Chisholm Trail.

The time is 1871 or ’72. Ruthless cattle baron Thomas Dunson has built the biggest cattle ranch in Texas out of virtually nothing, helped by his old friend, Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan) and the orphan he adopted, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift), when the boy’s family was wiped out by the same Commanche band that slaughtered Dunson’s betrothed, and which tried to kill him and Groot.

The dazed, shocked boy has one cow, the bitter but unbowed Dunson has one bull, and that is how the “D Red River” brand is born.


Walter Brennan, l, as Nadine Groot; John Wayne, center, as Thomas Dunson, and Mickey Kuhn as the young Matt Garth

After the war, the Union declares economic and political war on the South, which destroys the market for beeves. Dunson will have to either move his herd to market in Missouri, die trying, at the hands of cut-throat border gangs or Indians, or lose everything.

Dunson is a murderous psychopath. I first saw this picture 42 years ago, and I vaguely recalled that aspect of his personality, but not the particulars. It’s a miracle the picture got past the censors, but this came at a steep price.

There is a conflict during the cattle drive. The men think they ought to change direction, and head towards Abilene, Kansas, where a couple of them heard tell of a railroad line, rather than Missouri, which is a much longer, more dangerous trail. The problem is, the railroad is just a rumor; no one’s actually seen it.

As far as Dunson is concerned, disagreement is a capital offense.

John Ford and Wayne were supposedly best friends, and yet for several years, Ford had been artistically inhibiting Wayne. In the face of Wayne’s revelatory performance for Hawks as Tom Dunson, Ford legendarily exclaimed, “I didn’t know the big son-of-a-bitch could act!”


John Ireland, l, as gunslinger Cherry Valance; John Wayne, c, and Montgomery Clift as the grown-up Matthew Garth

The influence that this picture had on the Western cannot be exaggerated. I am thinking especially of the epic Larry McMurtry novel, 30 years later, Lonesome Dove, and the magnificent, 1989 miniseries made out of it. Capt. Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) is a kinder, gentler, Thomas Dunson.

At the time, Dimitri Tiomkin’s music was the boldest, most ambitious score ever written for a Western. He weaves his own, original themes together with the most famous cowboy music ever composed, as well as 19th century standards by Stephen Foster.

The Two Main Themes


Track 1


Published on Oct 24, 2013

Track 1 of the original soundtrack of the classic Western film Red River, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin.

Track 2 - Dunson Heads South


Track 3 - Red River Camp


Track 4 - The Red Menace Strikes


Track 5 - The Lone Survivor


Track 6 - Birth of Red River D


Track 7 - Mexican Burial


Track 8 - Growth of the Dunson Empire


Track 9 - Roundup


Track 10 - Suspense at Dawn


Track 11 - On to Missouri


Track 12 - The Drive Moves North

Track 13 - The Brazos Trail


Track 14 - Stampede


Track 15 - The Missing Cowboy

See if you recognize the most famous cowboy music ever composed, which Tiomkin wove into this passage at two different intervals.


Track 16 - Latimer Burial


Track 17 - Thunder on the Trail


Track 18 - Red River Ahead


Track 19 - Red River Crossing


Track 20 - Cottonwood Justice

Track 21 - Dunson Swears Vengeance


Track 22 - Comanche Arrows


Track 23 - In Wait


Track 24 - Fight for Life


Track 25 - Vigil in the Night



Track 26 - Foggy Night Surrender


Track 27 - The Spectre Takes Form


Track 28 - Interlude


Track 29 - Out of the Past


Track 30 - Memory of Love


Track 31 - A Joyous Meeting


Track 32 - Approach to Abilene


Track 33 - A Big Day for Abilene



Track 34 - The Spectre Closes in


Track 35 - A Message for Matt


Track 36 - The Challenge


Track 37 - The New Brand


Joanne Dru, as Tess Millay

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