On 2.21 I reported that Criterion’s forthcoming Red River Bluray will contain two versions of Howard Hawks’ 1948 classic western — the 127-minute vocally-narrated-by-Walter Brennan version, which few have seen, along with the widely seen 133-minute book-journal version which was used for last fall’s Masters of Cinema Bluray. The differences between the versions are spelled out in some detail in Todd McCarthy‘s Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood.

Here are excerpts, found on pages 441 and 442:

“More perplexing is the question of why two distinct versions of Red River were made — one in which a written chronicle entitled Early Tales of Texas serves to connect the chapters in this highly episodic film, another in which voice-over narration by Walter Brennan‘s character, Nadine Groot, bridges the gaps in time and place.

“The diary version runs seven and a half minutes longer. In addition to cutting the shots of the pages, [the narrated version trims] include a lengthy description by Cherry Valance (John Ireland) of a beautiful woman who told him about the railroad to Abilene and a scene showing nervousness on the part of Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) as Dunson is catching up to him. There are also differences in the musical score, with the diary version containing more vocalizing than the voice-over version.

“Most important, however, the showdown between Matthew and John Wayne‘s Tom Dunson is significantly cut in the [narrated] version. All of Dunson’s initial dialogue — ordering Matt to draw and then warning “then I’ll make you” and so on — is missing in teh voice-over version, leaving him to just fire away. Also removed are the progressively tight shots of Matthew’s unblinking eyes as Dunson shoots at him — only the last one remains.

“In the absence of any documented reasons why two versions were created, it seems likely that the voice-over version was made with an eye to foreign markets, where several minutes’ worth of English-language text on the screen would have been highly annoying.”

I posted the above clip (Montgomery Clift and Joanne Dru bantering as Indians attack the wagon train) because I’ve always been interested in the shot in which an arrow slams into Dru’s right shoulder. It has to be be “real” as there was obviously no CGI back then. Hawks must have had Dru wear some kind of shoulder prosthetic and then had some off-screen specialist literally shoot an arrow into the prosthetic…something like that.