clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

BCB After Dark: I Don’t Know is on third

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks who will play the most third base for the Cubs in 2024.

Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

It’s anothe week here at BCB After Dark: the swingingest spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re so thankful—and a little bit amazed—that you braved the weather to make it here tonight. Come on in and warm up. Let us check your coat. There are still some tables available. The show will start shortly. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Last week I asked you which free agents the Cubs will still sign this winter. Winning the vote with 34 percent was “Cody Bellinger and Rhys Hoskins.” There was a tie for second place as both “Just Bellinger” and “Bellinger and Matt Chapman” both got 22 percent. Of course, the vote was taken before the trade that brought Michael Busch to Chicago, so that probably would have changed some votes.

So here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. I wrote way too much about Red River. But those of you who skip those sections can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.

I wish there was a jazz version of The Clash’s song about Montgomery Clift, “The Right Profile,” to tie in with Red River this evening.

The closest I can find is this gypsy jazz cover of The Clash’s “Jimmy Jazz,” which is at least from the same London Calling album. This is performed by Rêve Bohème, a Danish gypsy jazz band, in 2013.

You voted in our second-round matchup of the BCB Winter Western Classic between the #3 seed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and our #14 seed, The Magnificent Seven. One, it was the poll that got the most total votes so far. And two, it was the closest contest we’ve had so far. But with 51 percent of the vote, director Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly advanced the third round. Seems like it won on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Tonight we introduce the final film to debut in our tournament, the #4 seed, director Howard Hawks’ Red River (1948). It takes on a different film starring John Wayne, director Henry Hathaway’s True Grit (1969). Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor for True Grit, but I think he does a better job in Red River. But you should feel free to disagree.

Red River (1948) #4 seed. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walther Brennen and Joanne Dru.

According to Hawks, when fellow director John Ford saw Red River, he was so impressed with the performance of Ford’s frequent collaborator John Wayne that he told Hawks “I didn’t know the big son of a bitch could act!” Without Red River, so the belief goes, Ford would have never cast Wayne in the more challenging roles he played in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and, of course, The Searchers.

Red River also plays an important role in film history as Montgomery Clift’s first movie. Clift is widely considered to be the the first actor to come out of the Method School to hit Hollywood, opening the door to Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe and pretty much every big actor of the “New Hollywood” era of the sixties and seventies.

The plot of Red River is esentially Mutiny on the Bounty set on a cattle drive, with some added Freudian touches about the relationship between fathers and sons and the psychological need for the son to surpass the father. The message of the film unfortunately gets blunted by an ending tacked on to give American audiences a happy ending.

Red River is a fictionalized story of the opening of the Chisholm Trail after the Civil War. Wayne plays Thomas Dunson, a man traveling to California in 1851 with his herd of cattle and his sweetheart Fen (Coleen Gray). Dunson, along with his faithful sidekick Groot (Walter Brennan), decides to break off from the wagon train and stay in Texas. Despite Fen’s pleas to take her with him, he orders her to continue on to California.

Shortly thereafter, the wagon train is attacked and slaughtered by Indians. (And the fact that Wayne barely reacts to the slaughter of his sweetheart is either a sign that Dunson is either a man who keeps his feelings well bottled up or a sociopath.) The only survivor of the attack is a young boy named Matthew Garth, whom Dunson and Groot take in as a ward.

Light spoilers: Fourteen years pass and Matt (Clift) is now a man. Dunson’s ranch had prospered, but the Civil War wrecked the market for beef in South Texas. The only way for Dunson to save his ranch is to drive the cattle to Missouri, where it can be loaded on the railroad and shipped to hungry markets in the East. (And yes, Dunson has several speeches about the virtues of eating beef.) The trek will be hard and Dunson demands than any man who signs on sees it through to the end. His orders along the way are not to be questioned.

Eventually along the way, the men hear that the railroad has been extended to Abilene, Kansas, which would be a much easier trip. A stampede has destroyed most of their supplies and they’ve been forced into eating their cattle and living off the land. Most think they won’t make it to Missouri and want to divert to Kansas. But without proof that the rail has reached Abilene, Dunson refuses to consider it.

A lack of sleep and a a lot of whiskey drinking makes Dunson more erratic and tyrannical. But when he threatens to hang two deserters, Matthew leads a mutiny, least the men decide to kill Dunson themselves. In Matt’s mind, he’s doing Dunson a favor. Matthew leaves Dunson behind and takes the cattle off to Kansas. Dunson assembles a gang and follows, swearing that he’ll kill his traitorous surrogate son. Spoilers over.

Red River really is an actor’s movie. Hawks’ direction, Russell Harlan’s black-and-white cinematography and the Christian Nyby editing are terrific as well, but what really makes Red River stand out is how different the acting feels from everything else made in the mid-forties. (Even though it wasn’t released until 1948, the film was shot in 1946.) Even though Matt is the real hero of this film, Clift doesn’t play him as a typical Western hero. Clift underplays Matthew Garth, giving him a thoughtful air and a sense that there is a lot going on underneath. He’s clearly torn between his loyalty to Dunson and his desire to prove himself to be as good or better than his surrogate father. Matt is also the one who keeps everything in perspective when Dunson is losing all touch with reality. Clift is good enough to convey this with just a look or a pause.

You can imagine that Wayne, when working opposite this cerebral performance by Clift, said to himself “Oh, so we’re going to do it that way?” He eschewed his typical larger-than-life performances, seemingly knowing that he’d look bad compared to Clift doing it that way. Instead, Wayne also went as small and intimate as he could. Even as Dunson’s obsessions descend into madness, Wayne never really loses his cool. In a turnabout for Wayne, Dunson is basically the villain for over half of this film. Even in his more heroic moments, you can tell there’s a dark side there. I’m not sure how audiences of 1948 would have taken Dunson claiming his ranch by shooting two Mexican cowboys early in the film, but it’s a red flag to modern audiences. That scene also starts Dunson’s disturbing and somewhat darkly comic habit of killing people and then reading the Bible over their graves.

Brennen as Nadine Groot plays the comic relief role that he often played in Westerns. There’s a running gag about him losing his false teeth in a poker game. But he also serves as a narrator, explaining to characters (and the audience) about the relationship between Dunson and Matt. In some versions of the film, Brennen literally works as the narrator, although the restored versions mostly available today use the original cut that had a written journal appear on the screen to fill in the blanks between certain scenes.

Dru plays Tess Millay, a dance hall girl on a wagon train that the cattle drive encounters about three-quarters of the way through the film. She’s a standard Hawksian woman—tough, smart, fast-taking, confident and ultimately there to serve the men. In our introduction to Tess, her party is under attack from Indians. While Matt comes to the rescue and fights off the assault, Tess takes an arrow to the shoulder without flinching. She continues talking to Matt for a while until he realizes that she’s been hit.

Matt: I thought I told you to stay down.

Tess: You did.

Matt: Why didn’t you?

Tess: I got up.

Tess falls in love with Matthew, of course, but her ultimate role is to serve as a sounding board for both Matt and Dunson. Matthew leaves Tess to finish the cattle drive (just like Dunson did Fen 14 years earlier) and Dunson comes across her, looking to find and kill Matthew. That’s where Wayne does one of his better acting job, depressingly explaining that all he wanted was for something and someone to live on after him. That person was supposed to be Matthew, but the mutiny ended that. Dunson offers Tess half of everything he has in exchange for bearing his son. Tess agrees on the condition that Dunson stops trying to kill Matt. That’s a deal-breaker for Dunson. His quest for revenge is more important to him at this point than having a son.

Hawks made the decision to shoot in black-and-white because he felt that color would have made this dark tale too pretty. I wouldn’t call Red River a noir, but there’s some similar thinking going on there. But there is a lot of great cinematography in Red River, especially with the hundreds of cattle traveling across the countryside. And the scene where the cattle drive starts with repeated closeups of the ranchers going “Hee-yaw! And waving their hats is iconic enough that Peter Bogdanovich used it for The Last Picture Show.

There are a few things that keep Red River from being truly great. The portrayal of the Native Americans as nothing but bloodthirsty savages was common for the time, but still strikes a bad tone—especially since Dunson becomes just as bloodthirsty. There’s Hawks’ typical misuse of women, not giving them much life beyond a desire to be a wife or girlfriend to the male lead. Dru, in just her second film, does a great job with what little she’s given to do, but mostly she’s there to force a deus ex machina ending. That ending is the third problem.

The fourth issue with Red River is the relationship between Matthew Garth and a rival rancher Cherry Valance (John Ireland). The two have a rivalry from the time we meet them and Groot keeps telling us they are going to have a showdown—which, not to spoil things, never comes. Film historians of queer cinema have suggested that there is something else going on between Matthew and Cherry, which, I don’t know. Maybe. If you see it, good on you. I really don’t.

But despite those flaws (especially the cop-out ending), Red River is a still a great movie for the acting, the editing and the cinematography.

I should also mention, for those of you who missed it during our discussion of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, that Joanne Dru was the aunt of seventies-era Cubs’ first baseman Pete LaCock.

Here’s the trailer for Red River. You certainly get a sense of the beauty of the cattle drive here, as well as a taste of the subdued performance by Wayne. Also, you see the fate of poor Harry Carey Jr. I guess that’s a spoiler there.

As I’ve been clear, I’m not going to write a new essay for every film for every round. Here’s what I wrote in the first round for True Grit (1969).

True Grit (1969) #13 seed. Directed by Henry Hathaway. Starring John Wayne, Glen Campbell and Kim Darby.

True Grit is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser of a movie. It mostly stands apart from the revolution in filmmaking in the “New Hollywood” era in which It was made. There are no real attempts at social relevance or commentary on current events. I guess if you squint hard enough, there’s a small bit of feminism in there, but its not presented in any way that would be threatening to the typical fan of John Wayne movies. But in Rooster Cogburn, Wayne puts his considerable charisma into an antihero twist on his typical leading man. In doing so, Wayne finally won the Academy Award for Best Actor that had eluded him for so long.

Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn is one Wayne’s most iconic roles and it’s not hard to see why. He plays a character quite divorced from the upstanding and honorable heroes that audiences were used to seeing him play. Cogburn is a US Marshal with a reputation for unorthodox methods and a disdain for the rules. He’s also has a reputation for having killed dozens of men, although he claims all of them were in self-defense or otherwise in the line of duty. (The court is dubious of that claim.) Cogburn is as foul-mouthed as he could be and still get a “G” rating in 1969. He’s also a slovenly, drunken and anti-social man, completely unsuited for any role in society other than the one he currently occupies—tracking down fugitives throughout the lawless Indian Territory.

Despite Coburn’s many faults, Wayne plays the one-eyed Cogburn as the lovable curmudgeon. He’s also intensely loyal to the few people he lets into his life and is willing to lay his life down in the service of justice. However, he’d rather that other people—primarily fugitives—lay down their lives instead.

Kim Darby plays Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl from Arkansas who travels to Fort Smith after he father’s murder at the hands of his employee on the ranch Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). She wants justice for her father’s murder, but discovers that Chaney had fled into Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and that she would have to find a federal marshal to track down Chaney if she wants to see him apprehended. She has a choice of three, but she picks Cogburn against the advice of others. She thinks Cogburn has “true grit.” Proving that Cogburn is no knight in shining armor, he refuses to go after Chaney until Mattie offers him a $100 reward for the job.

Before they head out, Mattie is approached by a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Campbell) and pronounced “La Beef.” As it turns out, Chaney is also wanted in Texas for the murder of a state senator and there is a reward of a few thousand dollars for his arrest and return to Texas. As Le Boeuf explains, “It is a small reward, but he was not a large senator.”

Much against Mattie’s wishes, Cogburn decides to team up with La Boeuf and they can then split the two rewards. But against the wishes of Cogburn and La Boeuf, Mattie decides to tag along into dangerous Indian Territory. They try to stop her, but the resourceful Mattie quickly proves that there is no dissuading her when she puts her mind to something.

The main reason to watch True Grit is to see Wayne play Rooster Cogburn, Age and cancer had robbed Wayne of his all-American good looks by 1969, but his ability to light up a screen remained undimmed. I’ve often said that Wayne was a great actor when he wanted to be and unfortunately, he didn’t always want to be one. But in True Grit, Wayne puts in the effort. He’s irascible but honorable, drunken but capable, and gruff with a soft underbelly. And there may not be a more iconic moment on screen in Wayne’s career than when Cogburn faces off against four armed outlaws on horseback. He puts the reins of his horse in his mouth and charges, firing a pistol in one and and twirling and firing a rifle in the other. Somehow, he comes out of the encounter alive and the outlaws don’t.

Darby is also good as Ross, although she was 21 playing a 14-year-old and it shows. There’s nothing she could do about that. This is also unfair, but I think her performance suffers when compared to the job that a 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld would do with the part 40 years later. But the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit is a very different movie with the same plot. But Darby plays Mattie as a girl with a strong moral compass, a sharp head for business and as she would put it, “grit.” Nowhere is she better than when she confronts a horse trader who defrauded her deceased father and manages to talk him into giving her the money back.

As far as Glen Campbell goes, there’s a reason that he never had a big acting career. There’s very little interesting about La Boeuf. It’s a bit of stunt casting gone wrong. At least we get to hear Campbell sing over the opening credits. But Robert Duvall is in there as Ned Pepper, the leader of the outlaw gang that Tom Chaney hooks up with, as well as a small but terrific performance by Dennis Hopper as a wounded outlaw interrogated by Rooster.

Henry Hathaway was an old-hand director who had been in the movie business since he was ten years old in 1908. He dropped out of school and worked his way up through the industry until he became a director, mostly of Westerns, in his early-thirties. True Grit is an old-fashioned movie in the best sense of the studio system that he worked in. It tells the story and doesn’t get too fancy. Hathaway shot the film in the Colorado and California mountains and gets some great scenery. He is also old-fashioned in the way that he uses those locals to recreate the rugged mountains and majestic pine forests of. . . .Oklahoma. Oh well, it looks great. I guess that’s what really matters in a movie like this.

As I wrote above, I think the whole film suffers a little bit when compared the 2010 Coen Brothers remake, which I believe to be the better movie that puts the focus more on Mattie, where it really belongs. But while Jeff Bridges does a very fine job as Rooster Cogburn, the one thing the original has that the remake doesn’t have is John Wayne doing some of his best work. And that’s why you should watch True Grit.

And the trailer for True Grit.

So now it’s time to vote:


Red River or True Grit

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Red River
    (87 votes)
  • 47%
    True Grit
    (79 votes)
166 votes total Vote Now

You have until Wednesday to vote. I hope you watched True Grit last month when it was available on several different streaming services because it’s disappeared from all of them for the new year. It is still available to rent (and the 2010 version is now on Paramount+). Red River is available on MGM+, as well as for free (with ads) on Tubi, Pluto and the Roku Channel. There’a also a copy on YouTube, at least for now, it’s not a bad transfer at all.

Next up is the #5 seed Shane, which takes on the #12 seed The Wild Bunch.

Welcome back to everyone who skip the music and movies.

The Cubs third base position is certainly a question mark coming into the season at this point. Were the Cubs to sign free agent Matt Chapman, that would likely put an end to all the questions, although it might raise some as to where last year’s first-round pick Matt Shaw would play if and when he’s ready for the majors.

Absent the signing of Chapman or a trade for different third baseman, manager Craig Counsell has a lot of options and at the moment, none of them seem good. There’s Patrick Wisdom, who has played third base more than anyone since Kris Bryant was traded. Wisdom has great power, but not a lot else. He was solid defensively when he first started playing for the Cubs, but his defense has gotten worse as he ages.

Then there’s Nick Madrigal, who turned out to be a surprisingly good defensive third baseman. I full admit that I didn’t think he could do it and I turned out to be wrong. However, Madrigal’s bat leaves a lot to be desired compared to what most teams look for in a third baseman. For one, his power is pretty much non-existent.

There is the newly-acquired Michael Busch. The Dodgers tried to make a third baseman out of him last year and the results weren’t promising. But maybe if the Cubs can teach Madrigal to play third base, then can teach Busch to play third. On the other hand, if the team could team anyone to play third, they would have already taught Christopher Morel. Morel played more third base than any other position in the minors, but the results in the majors haven’t been good. Counsell has said that Morel needs to be in the lineup and third base is open. But it doesn’t seem like the Cubs have much faith in Morel’s abilities there.

So tonight’s question is “Who will play the most innings at third base for the Cubs in 2024?” I’ll let you vote for Matt Chapman if you want, but if you have another player who is not currently on the 40-man roster, then vote “other.” I know the Cubs have been working on Matt Shaw playing third. It’s possible he plays in the majors this year, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll reach the majors until late this year, if at all.


Who should play the most at third base for the Cubs in 2024?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Michael Busch
    (14 votes)
  • 18%
    Matt Chapman
    (63 votes)
  • 17%
    Nick Madrigal
    (61 votes)
  • 43%
    Christopher Morel
    (149 votes)
  • 10%
    Patrick Wisdom
    (34 votes)
  • 5%
    Other (leave in comments)
    (19 votes)
340 votes total Vote Now

Thanks again for braving the weather and stopping by this evening. I hope you’ve had an enjoyable evening. Please stay warm out there. Get home safely. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow for more BCB After Dark.