Friday, July 15, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #24: "My Rifle, My Pony and Me" from RIO BRAVO

The first time I ever saw Howard Hawks' exciting, funny and wholly entertaining 1959 western Rio Bravo, I was immediately enchanted by the relationships between almost everyone in the picture. John Wayne is a staunch town sheriff trying to enforce the rule of law on to a murderous gang member (Claude Akins) who's about to be transported to another city for trial. Dean Martin is his drunken deputy who's trying to dry out while rededicating himself to his duty. Ricky Nelson is a greenhorn kid with a crackerjack aim who offers his assistance to Wayne, Angie Dickinson is a voluptuous lady passing through town, and Walter Brennen is the cantankerous jailer who watches over the prisoner as the sheriff's office is beset upon by Akins' fellow gang members, who're bent on breaking him out of the clink.

It's a brilliant movie, written by Leigh Brackett (who would go on to co-write, of all things, The Empire Strikes Back). It's consistently clever, well-edited, and just a whole lot of fun. One of my favorite scenes in Rio Bravo, though, occurs in a moment of downtime between gunfights. Wayne, Martin, Nelson and Brennen are holed up in the jailhouse, bored and yet on edge. So Martin and Nelson begin warbling a sweet duet on a song called "My Rifle, My Pony and Me." The song was written by the score's composer, the legendary Dimitri Tiompkin; the lyrics were written by Oscar-winner Paul Francis Webster. It's a beautifully recorded, sweet little ditty that, surprisingly, doesn't feel forced into Hawks' film.

The sun is sinking in the west
The cattle go down to the stream
The redwing settles in the nest
It's time for a cowboy to dream

Purple light in the canyon
That is where I long to be
With my three good companions
Just my rifle, pony and me

Gonna hang my sombrero
On the limb of a tree
Coming home, sweet my darling
Just my rifle, pony and me

Whippoorwill in the willow
Sings a sweet melody
Riding to Amarillo
Just my rifle, pony and me

No more cows to be ropin'
No more strays will I see
'Round the bend she'll be waitin'
For my rifle, pony and me
For my rifle, my pony and me

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