The Sons of Katie Elder is about a woman named Katie Elder who dies and has a funeral. All four of her sons attend the funeral. Three of her sons are present at the funeral while one of her sons, John, played by John Wayne watches on from a distance and is unnoticed by most of the people at the funeral. Katie’s four sons get together and find out that she had lost her land to a man named Hastings and she spent her last days at somebody else’s ranch while paying rent. Her sons investigate how she lost her land and how the death of their father occurred, which leads to them figuring out that the man who had taken their land named Hastings might have been behind everything. Probably the only disjointed part of this movie is when they go on a cattle drive. I don’t understand why they would go on a cattle drive when they were pretty sure that Mr. Hastings had killed their father. There are other issues I have with the cattle drive, too, like how it seemed to be just randomly stuck into the movie and I don’t know what happens to the cattle when the Elder sons are arrested. Anyway they have to clear their name and have their revenge for their parents.
The acting in this movie is great, particularly from John Wayne and Dean Martin, who were both in another one of my favorite John Wayne westerns called Rio Brave, which I will be reviewing next. The other two songs, Matt and Bud, are well played by their actors, too, although I do not know their actors as well. The sheriff is played by an actor who was the sheriff in the Rifleman, which is a 1950s western TV show that my dad really likes.
There are only two notable action scenes in this movie. The Elder brothers are being taken to another town to have a fair trial for deciding whether they killed the sheriff named Billy or not when on the way there some of the men who work for Hastings ambush the Elder sons and the deputy who is escorting them to the town. One of the Elder brothers is killed off by an explosion with some dynamite from Curly, a gun slinger who was hired by Hastings to take care of the Elder brothers if they caused trouble, and the deputy is killed by Hastings. However, John Wayne manages to kill a couple of the criminals and Curly and cause the rest of the criminals to retreat. John Wayne then has a final confrontation at the end of the movie with Hastings, the main villain in this movie, in a warehouse for gun powder and explosives, which leads to an explosive movie finale.
There is some pretty good humor in this movie with the four brothers interacting with each other. They have one of your typical, amusing John Wayne brawls in this movie between the four of them.
Most of the suspense in this movie is when the Elder brothers have holed up in a barn where they are waiting for the marshall to deliver justice and allow them to prove themselves innocent. Two of the remaining Elder brothers have been shot, and they do not have much time left before the brothers might die.
The four brothers in this movie are some great protagonists. John is the oldest brother, a gun fighter who is well played by John Wayne. John Wayne is used to playing the part of tough gun fighters. However, this is one of his roles when he adds some extra depth to his character with trying to have revenge for his parents and interacting with his brothers. Tom is the second oldest and the gambler who is amusingly played by Dean Martin. Matt is the most reserved of the four brothers and we know the least about him. Unlike the other three we are not really sure what his occupation is, except when it was briefly mentioned that he was trying to get money to go into a hardware business. Apparently, he is just as disrespectable as the older two brothers, though. Bud is the youngest brother who originally wants to be a gun fighter with John Wayne, but the other three brothers want for Bud to finish college, so that he can be a testament to Katie.
The one woman in this movie is not very memorable. She seems to be a voice of morals for John Wayne. She originally convinces John Wayne not to have revenge against the people who were responsible for his parents’ deaths and the Elders losing their land because Katie disliked killing. However, later on the Elder brothers have their revenge anyway.
The villain in this movie is pretty average. He’s just your typical land baron who is trying to take over the county with nefarious means. He hires a gun fight named Curly to take care of the Elder brothers in case the Elder brothers cause trouble for him. Curly doesn’t really display a great gun fighting prowess. His biggest act against the Elder brothers was to blow up a bridge with dynamite and kill one of the Elder brothers with a fragment from the bridge. He is soon killed afterwards by John Wayne.
The music for this movie is fantastic. I love the horns used for this music. It is very enthusiastic and adds a lot of spirit to the movie. It kind of reminds me of the theme music used in the Magnificent Seven.
The setting is a small town and one of the fights happens at a river with a bridge. It’s pretty typical settings. However, having the Elder brothers pinned down under a bridge during one of the fights was somewhat interesting.
This John Wayne movie has a lot more heart than your average John Wayne movie. It is very interesting to see John Wayne interacting with his brothers, and the music is great. Sons of Katie Elder is not one of those John Wayne movies that gets as much appreciation as certain other John Wayne movies such True Grit or the Searchers. However, I think that it is a John Wayne movie that people should definitely be aware of because it is in my opinion a great John Wayne movie.