Hawk's is one of those old Hollywood directors that knew no limits. He directed everyone from Joan Crawford to Marilyn Monroe, discovered and molded the talent of Lauren Bacall, felt as comfortable rolling on an old West shootout as well as capturing a song and dance number. The man had a talent for recycling his own material and spinning gold each time. Rio Bravo was no different.
I don't think Hawks ever intended for Feathers to be such a stand out among this group of male heavy weights. I mean, he named her after an accessory that she wears only a couple of times, a brown feather boa. it isn't even memorable or showy. I think that was a direct relation to how Hawks regarded Angie Dickenson's character, as a flowery female accessory, for show and not necessarily for purpose. For Hawks, this movie was all about what it meant to be a man's man... I don't think he ever expected just how strong a woman can be when pitted against this much machismo.
Feathers leads the romantic subplot in Bravo. She comes to town on the stage coach and has to stay over night due to a busted wheel. Her timing couldn't have been worse. John Wayne's Sheriff is between a rock and a hard place keeping a notorious murderer locked in his jail until the U.S. Marshall can arrive. All he has for help is a nagging crippled deputy half off his rocker and a grumpy recovering alcoholic deputy with the shakes. In walks a young woman matching a handbill description of a wanted gambling cheat. What I like about Feathers is that they never come right out and say that she's a "fallen woman" instead she struts into the room independent and defiant... not to mention chatty.
I love how sassy she is. From the get go, she never once comes across intimidated by the door frame dominating John Wayne. She keeps him on his toes with a never ending stream of talk. At the beginning of their relationship, Wayne follows her up into her room believing that she's cheated at the poker table down below. He asks her about missing cards from the playing deck and she replies that he's just going to have to search her for them. That he would have to remove her blouse and check beneath her skirt. Immediately Wayne is thrown for an embarrassing loop. He stutters and get's flustered. Seeing the Duke loose his footing is wonderful and watching such a small fierce little woman do it is incredibly entertaining.
Feathers doesn't borrow from the Western female stereotypes. She isn't a saloon girl decked out in corsets and flashy colors but neither is she the virtuous homestead woman. She's just a girl who came to town on the stage. She slowly falls for the Sheriff and stays despite his insistence that she leave. She's stubborn and feisty. All in all, she's mind kind of girl.
Feathers: I thought you were never going to say it.
John T. Chance: Say what?
Feathers: That you love me.
John T. Chance: I said I'd arrest you.
Feathers: It means the same thing, you know that.
Bravo is worth watching for a thousand different reasons (including a gratuitous but awesome Nelson/Martin duet), but for me, I watch it for the woman with the feathers...
As for the other reasons to watch Bravo... just look at that handsome Ricky Nelson... need I say more??