John Wayne

‘Rio Bravo’ Star Angie Dickinson Reflects on ‘Very Quiet and Respectful’ John Wayne


Angie Dickinson recently opened up about the film that made her a star, 1959’s Rio Bravo, starring opposite John Wayne. The film kicked off the TCM Classic Film Festival, and Dickinson was on hand along with directors Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson to discuss the film. Before the screening, the 90-year-old veteran actress spoke about landing the role.

The classic 1959 film, also starring Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, has now been restored in stunning 4K resolution. Howard Hawks directed this production based on B.H McCampbell’s short story. Meanwhile, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman penned the screenplay. Despite being overlooked by the Oscars, this movie was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2014.

Dickinson remembers getting into shape for the audition being particularly harrowing. “I worked very, very hard to get in shape, she told Variety. “I needed a little bit of massaging to get the extra fat off of my arms and legs and all that stuff. And so I was ready, and it was just one of those little miracles.”

Angie Dickinson didn’t screen test with Wayne for her ‘Rio Bravo’ role

Her screen test was also with someone of note. “Frank Gifford, who played for the [New York Giants), played John Wayne’s part in my test because he was also under contract to Warner Bros,” she explained. “[Rio Bravo director and frequent Wayne collaborator] Howard Hawks didn’t talk much, so you had to figure out what he wanted. And he evidently saw a few people, and I guess I was just lucky I was one of them.”

Even though it was an early role for Dickinson, she had no problem playing off of John Wayne’s stoic film persona. “That was pretty true to his true nature,” Dickinson recalled. “Very quiet and respectful — not loving exactly but showing he had the pleasure of your company, or certainly not working against it. Well, once you’re in with Hawks and Wayne, you’d do anything and everything they ask you to do. But luckily I felt very normal in that space. In other words, they didn’t intimidate me.”


It’s clear that Dickinson feels she owes Rio Bravo her career, but she also cherishes her memories from the set. “Literally I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for “Rio Bravo,” number one. But also [appreciate] the memory of Walter Brennan and John Wayne and Howard Hawks and Dean [Martin] — memories sad and happy both.”

Meanwhile, Dickinson revealed some regret over an iconic classic tv role she took on in the 70s. “My mistake was taking Police Woman because that just wore me out,” she recalled. “Because it was four years of getting up at 5 o’clock and working five days a week until midnight on Fridays. That’s a tough job when you have a child or children or a family. As I look back, I would’ve not done Police Woman, because it marked me in a certain role. I would’ve been free to take the movies I wanted to take. But you just don’t know. You have to choose and live with it. And it’s not an easy business because everybody wants it.”


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