Dino: “a likable coward”

From Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, by Nick Tosches – more from Howard Hawks on Rio Bravo:

Dean himself described Rio Bravo for a reporter that June: “I play a sodden, drunken bum. My hands shake so I can’t hold a cigarette. I have no self-respect. It was a woman and I can’t get over her. Then along comes Duke Wayne with a big problem and I start pulling myself together. The whole thing is kind of a horse-opera love affair between Wayne and myself.”

Jeannie remembered her husband during the making of those first, important films of his newborn career. “His biggest stretch was not The Young Lions,” she would say. “His biggest stretch was Rio Bravo.” Of his role in The Young Lions Dean himself had told people: “Hell, I just played myself: a likable coward.” His role as Bama in Some Came Running was “a snap”. But in Rio Bravo, he had to portray from scratch.

Dean had Marlon Brando read the script for him. “He didn’t tell me how to act the part. He just told me what to think about. I play a drunk with DTs. I’m fighting the bottle, the bad guys, and John Wayne, the sheriff who makes me his deputy.” As Dean recognized, it was “a very good role, more dramatic than anything I’ve ever done.”

The moment in Rio Bravo that proved the hardest for him was a scene that called for him to break down in tears. He had trouble doing that. Even pretending to cry was something that unnerved him; even as make-believe, it was contra naturam. Hawks seemed to sense this in Dean, and he put off the scene until the final day of shooting, and he helped him through it, for which Dean was grateful.

“I was willing to do almost anything,” Hawks said, “because he was so nice to work with and so good at what he did.” The way Hawks saw it, “He could do anything you wanted him to.”

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4 Responses to Dino: “a likable coward”

  1. tracey says:

    That last paragraph makes me choke up.

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