The Art of the Western: With Dr. Carl Rollyson

By Brian Aldaco

In Dr. Carl Rollyson’s sixth visit to Huntsville, the LEAP Center welcomed him to our Texas town with a screening of Rio Bravo. The film was not only appropriate for the throng of John Wayne fans in town, but also for Dr. Rollyson, whose most recent biographies addressed one of Wayne’s frequent co-stars: Walter Brennan.  Accordingly, this past Friday the LEAP Ambassadors open the doors to the Kathy E. Don Education Center…

LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Rio Bravo, John Wayne, Dr. Carl Rollyson

…to make room for the Wayne/Brennan admirers (along with a few newbies to the western flicks) for a night of corrupt land owners, noble peacemakers, and the beloved Stumpy.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Rio Bravo, John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson

Before the show, however, the western wearing guests clanked their boots around the center to mingle and enjoy of our delicious punch and popcorn.


It was nice to visit with many friends who attended the screening of the Howard Hawks’ classic.

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Judge Tracy Sorensen brought her son, Cody, and he had seen the film some 15 times.  Indeed, he knew much of the film’s plot, and was heard to complain that “John Wayne didn’t make enough movies”.

Other audience members, including many LEAP Ambassadors, took the time to pose next to our John Wayne cutout.

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Before the screen opened up to the vastness of the West, however, Dr. Rollyson gave us an overview of some of those characters who made up this endless country.

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Dr. Rollyson even acted out a couple of parts…

in his enjoyable and informative introduction to the film.

Before long, Rio Bravo began, and the audience sat still for a hundred and forty minutes of enjoyment. Among the audience we could feel the empathy towards Dude’s (Dean Martin) alcoholic struggle…

Dean Martin, LEAP, SHSU, Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks

…coupled with the amusement towards the numerous comic remarks by Stumpy (Walter Brennan).  Interestingly, one of the well-liked characters was Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales, who was both loyal and maddening to Sheriff Chance (Wayne’s character) but, of course, it was Wayne who was the star of the show.

Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks, John Wayne, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center

Regardless, no matter how young or how old, whether this was the 50th or first time to watch, everyone who left, left with a smile in their face and a craving for more of the Duke, more of the Western thrill, and more of Brennan.

Dr. Carl Rollyson, An American Character, Walter Brennan, Rio Bravo

Fortunately, this latter wish came true for those who left the screening with a copy of A Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan, signed by its author Dr. Carl Rollyson.

The LEAP Center was glad that everyone left happy from the screening and couldn’t miss an opportunity to take a group picture with two Texas heroes: John Wayne and Sam Houston.Rio Bravo, John Wayne, Sam Houston, Dr. Carl Rollyson, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Mac Woodward

The LEAP Center would like to thank Dr. Carl Rollyson for his friendship, expertise, and fine analysis of films and diverse biographical subjects!