A beautifully written review of a wonderful movie. This was Howard Hawk's first western and he originally offered the Tom Dunson part to Gary Cooper. When Cooper declined, Wayne visited the set and said he would take the part, but only if Hawks agreed to fire the amateurs he had hired, and replace them with real cowboys. It was also the first movie where the critics and industry folks took notice of Wayne's acting ability. After seeing Wayne in Red River, his frequent director John Ford said, "I didn't know the big son of a bitch could act." Some of the acting wasn't too hard for Wayne, who really didn't like Montgomery Clift, telling Life Magazine that Clift was "an arrogant little bastard." Clift's sexual orientation probably didn't help things either.
In Borden Chase's original story Matt kills Dunson. The ending was changed by Hawks, over the objections of Chase and Clift. But that's what gave us the great scene described by Wilmeth.