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Joanne Dru, neglected actress


slaytonf
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Both by TCM and Hollywood, or by TCM because of Hollywood. She is another in that category of talented, yet neglected actresses. TCM regularly shows her best films (Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, All the King's Men), and really, there's not much else. In any case, TCM will be showing them, and some others of hers all day Friday, a nice lead-in to the Friday Night Spotlight.

 

Of course, her best role is in Red River. And like in her career, she is often neglected in discussion of that movie, to which she contributes substantially.

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I've always liked Joanne Dru. She was one of the great dark haired beauties of the screen and also did quite commendable work as a dramatic performer.

 

She's probably been seen in Red River more than any other film she made. Truth is, some of her scenes in that film have always made been wince a little (and I say this as a person who likes Dru).

 

Undoubtedly because of the Howard Hawks influence, Dru is called upon to portray a Hawksian leading lady who remains (inexplicably, to me) loyal to Monty Clift, even though she barely knows him. (Yes, I guess it's supposed to be one of those love-at-first-sight things but I always found it a little hard to swallow).

 

Dru is such a knockout in the film, of course, and Clift is playing it reeeeeal cool with her, and she chases after this rather skinny cowboy who clearly could not get into a real fist fight with John Wayne, as we all know, but I'm digressing here. I just always found that Clift-Dru romance feels so contrived in the film (quite frankly, I get restless during their scenes and want the action to switch back to Wayne, wherever he is on the cattle trail following after them).

 

Dru is also asked to play it sort of tough in the film, too, striking that old match to light a cigarette almost like she's a bit of a female gunslinger. I'm exaggerating, of course, but her portrayal, quite frankly, rings a little false with me. Dru has the likeability factor going for her, of course, along with her stunning great looks.

 

But the performance itself has always fallen a little flat for me. Quite frankly, I just don't believe that lovely Joanne Dru is quite as seasoned as she plays it, nor can I quite understand why this knockout would go crazy over Monty Clift. (Then, again, the appeal for Clift has always been a little obscure for me anyway, so maybe other female viewers identify with Dru's attraction towards him).

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While "Red River" is my favorite "John Wayne movie" and right up there on my list of all-time favorite Westerns, I too have always felt that despite Clift's very good acting in this film, he did lack the "physical presences" for the role he plays in it. It's always seemed to me as if he's a "New York dandy" dressing up in cowboy attire. And so, yes, I know what you mean here, Tom.

 

The only idea I can come up with as to why Dru's character might fall for him is that Clift through his good acting IS successful as coming across as the "cool and unflappable one", and so much like how Steve McQueen in his many roles created a similar persona on screen, many women(and men) find that to be an attractive trait.

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Dargo, I'm afraid that no matter how "cool" Clift tries to play it in Red River, my eyes can deceive me that I'm looking at anything but a skinny little cowboy trying to put on an act. I have a real problem accepting him in that part.

 

In turn, I have a problem accepting Joanne Dru's character being so enraptured with him.

 

Clift never played in a western again and it's just as well. His casting (along with the overlength of the production, and waaaay too much footage without John Wayne) is one of the flies in the ointment for me with Red River.

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I think Clift fits the role well. The central theme of the movie is about two very different type of men; One is old school cowboy; big, hard, but not too bright.

 

The other uses his head and heart more so than his body. Each is a man in his own right that add value to society but in very different ways. It isn't until the end that the big hard, not too bright guy figures that out.

 

 

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I understand the contrasts between the two characters, James. Physically, though, Clift is unconvincing to me as a cowboy who is going to have so much respect from all those other cowhands who follow him.

 

And, of course, no matter how many low angle shots they have of Clift and no matter how relatively short the fight, Monty Clift hold his own in a fist fight with John Wayne? Gimme a break!

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Sorry, I typed my prior comment too fast and left out something I was planning on say;

 

Clift's character was really good with a gun. Really good. The Ireland character had a slight build also. But both were feared because they could use a gun much better than most.

 

As for the fist fight with Wayne; Ok, that is somewhat unrealistic (one real punch and Clift would be out), but I always assumed Wayne wasn't using full force since it was his 'son' he was fighting and the fact Clift would fight a gun fight with Wayne (one where Clift would of shot Wayne down). But yea, an unrealistic scene in a movie done for dramatic effect; oh, like every movie doesn't have a few!

 

 

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*jamesjazzguitar wrote: Clift's character was really good with a gun. Really good. The Ireland character had a slight build also. But both were feared because they could use a gun much better than most.*

 

That's a very valid point, James, and that factor for the respect accorded to Clift should also be taken into consideration.

 

But you haven't said what you thought of Joanne Dru in the film, which is really was this thread is all about.

 

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>And, of course, no matter how many low angle shots they have of Clift and no matter how relatively short the fight, Monty Clift hold his own in a fist fight with John Wayne? Gimme a break!

 

Oh, I don't know, Tom. I mean if Jimmy CAGNEY could always beat up guys twice his size, then WHY couldn't Monty CLIFT???

 

LOL

 

(...saaay, maybe THIS is why CAGNEY only ever made one Western too, HUH?!) ;)

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I guess the difference is that Cagney looked like a fighter.

 

By the way, while Jimmy will always be remembered as an urban boy, as you know, it was country life that he really loved, and to which he retired. If you watch his handling of his horse in The Oklahoma Kid he's actually very good with it, and he took great pride with his horsemanship.

 

Anyway, this is a Joanne Dru thread so I won't belabour the subject. She was pretty good at riding a horse in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, though, of course, she did it that side saddle sissy way.

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"Red River", Clift's first film was not a too happy experience for him. Years later, when Hawks approached Clift to co-star with Wayne and Brennan again in "Rio Bravo" as the story goes Clift said "No" and the role of "Dude" went to Dean Martin.

There was another story that Hawks approached Burt Lancaster for the Matthew Garth part, but Lancaster had already signed to do "The Killers". Now Lancaster in 1947 was a more imposing figure then Clift and would have been a major asset to the film.

 

Joanne Dru was indeed a beauty and got the role of Tess Millay after her friend Margaret Sheridan who was signed by Howard Hawks got pregnant. Sheridan finally got to work for Hawks a few years later in "The Thing".

One role of Joanne Dru that I really enjoyed was as "Denver" in John Fords beautiful little classic "Wagonmaster" Even though she again played a "soiled angel", her relationship with Travis {Ben Johnson} was a more believable one. Sadly, I also believe she never reached her full potential...

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Well I guess you felt Clift wasn't right in From Here to Eternity either.

 

As for Joanne Dru; You're point about her character being a Hawk's gal is on-target. While I believe Dru does fine as a 'Hawk's gal' I don't find her as convincing or having as much depth and charm as other Hawk's gals like Arthur in Only Angel Have Wings, Bacall in the two Bogie pictures, or even Angie Dickerson in Rio Bravo. Of course a lot of that is due to the fact her part isn't key to the plot as much as the other gals where in their pictures.

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Since you're referring to the production of Red River, Fred, I guess it's pretty well known that director Hawks had special designs on Joanne Dru which didn't involve her work in front of the camera. When Dru, instead, took up with John Ireland Hawks got back at the actor by reducing screen time of Cherry, the role that he played in the film.

 

Hawks also had designs on Lauren Bacall during To Have and Have Not, foiled when she took up with Bogart. He couldn't reduce Bogie's part in the film but Ireland, a minor actor at the time, obviously didn't have the clout to stop him. Since Ireland would marry Joanne Dru, however, I can't feel entirely sorry for him.

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{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}*Of course a lot of that is due to the fact her part (in Red River) isn't key to the plot as much as the other gals where in their pictures.*

 

Red River would be a far better film, in my opinion, if that had skimped the romance between Clift and Dru or, at least, given it far less screen time. I doubt that I'm the only viewer who has felt that the scenes between those two tend to slow the film down.

 

Joanne Dru's character's main purpose in the film, aside from being a pretty face, seems to be in reuniting the characters played by Wayne and Clift.{font}

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Cherry Valance of Val Verdi Way:

The fact that Hawks offered the role of Cherry to Cary Grant { who said "no"} shows that he was more a major character then Ireland's was. Also, in the original story that Bordon Chase wrote for the Saturday Evening Post and co wrote the script, it was Cherry Valance that shoots and kills Dunson. Chase was not to happy with Hawks happy ending.

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Eeh! Now c'mon Fred, EVERYONE knows that the ONLY people allowed to kill John Wayne were either crazy psychotics like Bruce Dern OR the Japanese during the Second World War!

 

(..and NOT reasonably nice guys like Cherry!!!)

 

LOL

 

;)

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