Volume 2, Issue 10: Ricky on TV

Plus a new episode of The Video Essay Podcast

It’s hard to believe that I am nearing the end of Rio Bravo Diary.

Here’s a thought I had recently:

Each time I go into my Premiere file to create a new clip, I simply adjust the end of the previous day’s clip by +550 frames and create a new one. Naturally, I arrive at a somewhat randomly generated frame on which one clip will end and the next one will begin. Here is one recent example:

The above image marks the end of clip 325 and the beginning of clip 326. As I stared at Colorado (Ricky Nelson) in the stable window, I was reminded of something from Todd McCarthy’s essential biography, Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood.

McCarthy details Hawks’ time in Europe after Land of the Pharaohs flopped in 1955, and his subsequent return to the United States to eventually direct Rio Bravo in 1959. McCarthy writes:

One thing that surprised and impressed Hawks upon his return to the States was television. When he had left at the beginning of 1953, TV was mostly variety, comedy, and game shows supplemented by a measure of serious live drama. Now, prime time was dominated by filmed series, and it can’t have escaped Hawks’s attention that fully a third of them were Westerns, including the number-one show, Gunsmoke, starring his embarrassed “Thing,” James Arness. Lots of good actors, both veterans and young, good-looking kids, were now appearing on television, and Hawks watched a lot of it to bring himself up to date. In fact, Westerns seemed so commonplace and unexceptional in 1958 that Jack Warner yawned when Hawks told him he wanted to do a Western for his return to the screen.1

As McCarthy notes, the cast of Rio Bravo is full of television stars. In 1976, Angie Dickinson (who plays Feathers) roasted Dean Martin (who plays Dude) on Martins’s eponymous celebrity roast show by imagining the two of them on an episode of Dickinson’s show, Police Women. I attempted to recreate this fictional episode using clips from Hawks’ film in my recent videographic experiment, “Rio Bravo Roast.”

Of Rio Bravo’s relationship to television, McCarthy writes:

Although it is easy to overlook in retrospect, the cast of Rio Bravo was filled out with television performers to a remarkable degree; given the box-office calculation involved in the case of Ricky Nelson, this can only have been deliberate on Hawk’s part.2

Fans of Nelson and his family will know that they were stars of the sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet during this period. The show ran from 1952 - 1965.

As I stared at the aforementioned image of Nelson in Rio Bravo, framed in the window of the stable, I could think of only one thing: Hawks has returned Nelson to the medium from which we know him best. For a moment, Ricky Nelson is back on TV.

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Episode 28. Broey Deschanel

The most recent episode of The Video Essay Podcast features an interview with Maia, the YouTuber known as Broey Deschanel. The episode’s topics include Maia's introduction to video essays, her creative process, why YouTube is currently in a "magic moment" of virality, censorship and the YouTube algorithm, how and why to cite the work of other video essayists, why humor is funny, and much more. We also discuss Maia's video "The Liberal Escapism of Bridgerton" and BREADSWORD's 2017 video, "Treasure Planet - Disney's Biggest Mistake." More here.

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Todd McCarthy, Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood (New York, Grover Press, 1997), 548.


Ibid, 556.