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 Post subject: John Wayne
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:34 am 
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Prince Judah
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John Wayne - the Duke - was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907 at 216 South Second Street in Winterset, Iowa, the son of pharmacist Clyde Morrison and his wife Mary. Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, where they tried ranching in the Mojave Desert. When the ranch failed, the family moved to Glendale, California, where Marion delivered medicines for his father, sold newspapers and had an Airedale dog named "Duke" (the source of his own nickname - and other sources explain how local firemen got to calling the 10-year-old kid "little Duke" - he didn't acquire this famous nickname in Hollywood and it was a welcome change from "Marion").
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When he narrowly failed admission to Annapolis, he went to USC on a football scholarship for 1925-27. Wayne played on the USC football team under coach Howard Jones. A broken collarbone injury curtailed his athletic career; the actual cause of his injury was a body-surfing accident. He lost his athletic scholarship and, without funds, had to leave the university. Wayne began working at the local film studios. Tom Mix got him a summer job as a prop man in exchange for football tickets. On the set, he became close friends with director John Ford for whom, among others, he began doing bit parts.

His earliest uncredited bits were as a Yale Football Player in the 1926 film Brown of Harvard and as a guard in Bardelys the Magnificent. He was credited as "Duke Morrison" only once, in the 1929 film Words and Music. Director Raoul Walsh saw him moving studio furniture while working as a prop boy - carrying a big armchair above his head with flair - and cast him in his first starring role in The Big Trail (1930). For his screen name, Walsh suggested "Anthony Wayne", after Revolutionary War general "Mad Anthony" Wayne. Fox Studios chief Winfield Sheehan rejected it as sounding "too Italian." Walsh or John Ford then suggested "John Wayne." Sheehan agreed, and the name was set. Wayne himself was not even present for the discussion but he later was aware of its qualities - "it's a name that goes well together," he told an interviewer "...and it's like one word - John Wayne." His pay was raised to $105 a week.
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The Big Trail was the first big-budget outdoor spectacle of the sound era, made at a (then-) staggering cost of over $2 million, using hundreds of extras and wide vistas of the American southwest. Filmed in two versions, a standard 35mm version and another in the new 70 mm Grandeur film process, the audience who saw it in Grandeur stood and cheered. Unfortunately, only a handful of theaters were equipped to show the film in its widescreen process and, despite being highly regarded by modern critics, the film was considered a huge box office flop at the time. (Wayne looks impossibly young in this very old film - I'm too used to seeing him in films of the fifties and sixties).

After the commercial failure of The Big Trail, Wayne was relegated to small roles in A-pictures, including Columbia's The Deceiver (1931), in which he played a corpse. He appeared in the serial The Three Musketeers (1933), an updated version of the Alexandre Dumas novel in which the protagonists were soldiers in the French Foreign Legion in then-contemporary North Africa. He played the lead, with his name over the title, in many low-budget "Poverty Row" westerns, mostly at Monogram Pictures and serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. By Wayne's own estimation, he appeared in about eighty of these horse operas from 1930 to 1939. In Riders of Destiny (1933) he became one of the first singing cowboys of film, albeit via dubbing. Wayne also appeared in some of the Three Mesquiteers westerns, whose title was a play on the Dumas classic. He was mentored by stuntmen in riding and other western skills. He and famed stuntman Yakima Canutt developed and perfected stunts and onscreen fisticuffs techniques still used today.
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Then, John Ford cast Wayne as The Ringo Kid in the adult western Stagecoach (1939), which was a big critical & commercial success, and this finally turned Wayne into a mainstream star. He was cast alongside then-bigger star Claire Trevor; they were reunited in Dark Command (1940) and the early airplane disaster film The High and the Mighty (1954), at which point Wayne was the #1 star. Ford cast him again in The Long Voyage Home (1940). Wayne's 1st color film was Shepherd of the Hills (41) and his only work for DeMille was Reap the Wild Wind (42), one of Wayne's rare less-honorable characters. Wayne was paired with Marlene Dietrich in The Spoilers (42), which had his famous long fight with Randolph Scott. He was also big in war pictures - Flying Tigers (42), The Fighting Seabees (44), Back to Bataan (45) and They Were Expendable (for Ford again). He was nominated for an Oscar for Sands of Iwo Jima (49), losing out to Broderick Crawford.
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Most of Wayne's even more classic films - and there were many - were with John Ford; Wayne once said that while many people had directed his films, John Ford directed his life. Their collaborations include the famous Cavalry trilogy - Fort Apache (48), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (49-their personal favorite)) and Rio Grande (1950) - as well as fan favorite The Quiet Man (52) and the matchless western classic The Searchers (56), perhaps Wayne's greatest role - he was intense and unlikable, but unforgettable and majestic. They did further great westerns - The Horse Soldiers (59), the quietly powerful The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (62-with James Stewart) and one small segment of How The West Was Won (62). They ended their teaming with the comedic Donovan's Reef (63).
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Wayne's other classic westerns were with director Howard Hawks, beginning with Red River (48), in which Wayne had to play older than he was for much of the film and in conflict with the much different actor Montgomery Clift. It was also when critics first actually took notice of Wayne. Hawks also directed him in another unofficial western trilogy: Rio Bravo (59), El Dorado (67-my personal favorite) and Rio Lobo (70), as well as the African adventure Hatari! (62). Wayne directed himself a couple of times: the first was for his personal project, the epic The Alamo (1960), in which he played Davy Crockett (a rare death scene for him) and then the Vietnam War pic The Green Berets (68), which anti-war proponents are quite critical of. He also directed much of The Comancheros (61) because the actual director, Michael Curtiz, was ill with cancer at the time. The same holds true for Big Jake (71), during which director George Sherman was sick.
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ABOVE: Wayne in Hatari! (62) and showing 'em how it's done in EL DORADO with Robert Mitchum; do not annoy them!

In the late fifties and through the sixties, Wayne was not only a big star, he was in many ways the big star - the undisputed top-rated star in terms of box office, popularity and longevity. He was the top-billed star in more movies than any other star by the time the seventies began and his films grossed more combined than those of any other star (this was before guys like Harrison Ford and the Star Wars films came around). Wayne was paired with many other top male stars during this period and he was always billed first. The only other one who approached this level of stardom was Clark Gable - The King - but he passed away prematurely in 1960. Wayne finally won the Oscar for his role of a one-eyed lawman in True Grit (69), a more cranky, craggy character than his usual amiable cowboys, a role he repeated in Rooster Cogburn (75), paired with Katharine Hepburn, of all people.

Wayne ended his incredible run in the western The Shootist (1976), playing an elder gunslinger who learns that he's dying of cancer and decides to go out in a style more customary to his nature - it was a very fitting final role. Wayne himself had serious health problems going back to the early sixties - lung cancer due to smoking but perhaps linked to his work on The Conqueror (56), which was filmed at a location rumored to be contaminated with radioactivity. Surgery removed his left lung in 1964. He suffered a stroke in 1974. The cancer returned in the late seventies and he died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979.
ImageImage < ol' Rooster - do not annoy him!

Wayne was a big man in more ways than one - he was about 6' 4" (even taller than Heston) - bulky - imposing and obviously intimidating both on and off-screen - but he loomed even larger on the big screen, usually monolithic in his roles, dominating any situation with an ease that was truly mythical. He was almost 70 when he filmed The Shootist and still seemed in his prime, still the big star, the tough hero. His critics play down his acting ability, but I remember stories of a neighbor witnessing Wayne studying his lines, perfecting them, going through them until they were done just right. Steve McQueen has been quoted as saying "Sometimes kids ask me what a pro is. I just point to the Duke." John Wayne was, perhaps, the greatest movie star of all time.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:13 pm 
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this is more of a simple man, the list for future topics is rich, BOGART, SPENCER TRACY, ROBERT MITCHUM.......


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:48 pm 
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I consider myself a pretty big John Wayne fan, but you wrote some stuff I wasn't aware of in your excellent bio/filmography. Thanks for the great read! Hondo was my introduction to The Duke and it was a great movie to introduce me to him, it got me quite hooked on him and I soon started collecting his movies. I don't think there's doubts in anyone's mind that The Duke was the greatest movie star there ever was. He's the only one who's been on The Harris Poll, a poll where Americans list their favorite actors and actresses, for every year since it began in 1994. Incredible!

My personal favorite movie of his (I have lots more to see, though, lucky me!) is Rio Bravo. I can watch that movie so many times without ever getting tired of it. I love the atmosphere in it, sometimes there's a lot of tension in it only for that to be removed with laughter thanks to Walter Brennan's perfect performance of Stumpy. It was the first movie I watched with Dean Martin in it and he impressed me with his acting. Oh, and let's not forget the stunning Angie Dickinson is in this, too! Honestly, I don't think I've seen a more beautiful woman in a movie before. She's perfection! Lucky Duke...

As far as westerns goes, few I've seen has all the elements that this one does. Action, suspense, comedy, drama. It's definitely in my top 5 westerns of all-time.

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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:32 am 
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Strange thing about Hondo - I keep hearing that it's very good but keep postponing watching it. I've had the still-sealed DVD for several years now. Now you're telling me that it's very good, so I'm gonna open up that DVD in the next day or so and finally watch it. It's one of those old westerns that was directed by neither John Ford or Howard Hawks so it'll be interesting to see how it stacks up. I've purposely kept myself in the dark about the story details.

My own personal Duke favorite is El Dorado (67); it may just be that this is because it was one of the first movies I watched in a theater - I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. When I was a little kid, our family went to this middle class resort area during summer vacation and some nights we'd attend the local theater, which usually ran these films during their 2nd runs, meaning a year or two after their initial runs. So, this was when I first saw the Duke on the big screen and, because I was so young, there was something magical about it all, seeing these films on the big screen. The film still holds up well with me - the camaraderie between Wayne and Mitchum, the young James Caan, the cool gunslinger Christopher George, the villain Ed Asner. And, there was one actress playing a kind of wild girl - Michele Carey, who never had a big career - who was probably my first cinema crush. It never lost its appeal with me, even 45 years later.

So, even though El Dorado is regarded as a lesser copy of Rio Bravo by most, it's El Dorado that I favor. That's the way life and cinema turn out sometimes - you can't really predict it or fight it, that's just the way it is -- as the Duke might say. But, I think I'll try to also watch Rio Bravo in the next day or so, just to see how well I like it now.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:09 pm 
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HONDO is amazing, Chrysagon.
John Wayne is my second-favourite actor - Heston is numero uno - and I own virtually all of his movies. Have any of you seen an adventure movie he did with Sophia Loren called LEGEND OF THE LOST in the 1950's? It has many similarities with my favourite Chuck movie SECRET OF THE INCAS, but its nowhere as good as SOTI.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:54 pm 
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James Byrne wrote:
HONDO is amazing, Chrysagon.
John Wayne is my second-favourite actor - Heston is numero uno - and I own virtually all of his movies. Have any of you seen an adventure movie he did with Sophia Loren called LEGEND OF THE LOST in the 1950's? It has many similarities with my favourite Chuck movie SECRET OF THE INCAS, but its nowhere as good as SOTI.

I had no idea you were such a big John Wayne fan, James. I bet all his movies take up quite a lot of space on your shelves since he made over a hundred of them.

Can't say I've seen Legend of the Lost, or even heard about it. It does sound interesting though.

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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:57 am 
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I've seen Legend of the Lost once on TV many years ago; then I caught part of it on TV only a few months ago -- unusual pairing of Wayne and Sophia Loren, with Italian actor Rosanno Brazzi kind of the odd man out as part of the usual triangle (Brazzi just didn't measure up to Wayne very well).

I finished watching Hondo a few hours ago. It came across as similar to a John Ford western to me; I found out that Ford actually directed the end with the battle with the Indians because director John Farrow had to leave to work elsewhere. The DVD edition I have has this introduction by critic Leonard Maltin, which I kind of regret watching before the film began; he didn't reveal much or anything of the plot, but a few shots from the film were shown during his intro and he revealed a couple of tidbits of info...

I was really surprised to learn that Hondo was filmed as one of those 3-D movies (this was in 1953). This is really apparent now in just a couple of shots during a key one-on-one fight scene between Wayne and an Indian - there is one shot each of the two fighters thrusting at the camera with their knives (Wayne thrusts at the camera, then the Indian does the same); these shots now come across as a bit bizarre, but otherwise there's very little of those gimmick shots that you see in the old fifties 3-D movies, just a bit during that final battle with arrows and spears.

Another surprise - around the middle of the film (on my DVD edition), all of a sudden there's this "INTERMISSION" sign. I thought - what the hell..? :-? This movie is under 90 minutes - why would there be an intermission ? (it only lasted a few seconds on the DVD but I assume the actual intermission was longer in the theaters). I found out that this had to do with the 3-D: in the theaters, there needed to be two projectors and when the reel change came around, it took some time to make the change.

Also unusual was the casting of Geraldine Page as the female lead (in one of her first roles), who was not the standard beauty usually seen opposite Wayne in his movies. This apparently surprised many people back then. There's even one scene where she spells out that she is rather plain-looking. It all reminded me of the problem casting the female lead in Heston's Will Penny, when supposedly many actresses turned down the role which was described as plain-looking. Anyway, a good cast all around - Australian Michael Pate as the main Indian (I just mentioned Pate in my long write-up on Rod Taylor); Leo Gordon as a mean guy; Jim Arness as a scout and Wayne's rival; and Ward Bond as his usual colorful reprobate.

One last thing to mention: I noticed at least a couple of times horses nearly slipping and falling - as if unplanned, not as rehearsed. This added bits of realism - obviously the shots were kept in and showed that horses are not always smooth going over some rough terrain. One scene was in the rain, the ground was muddy, so a horse nearly had a bad fall. Apparently, this was real unplanned rain. On the IMDb boards, someone also wrote that a horse steps on a rooster, probably causing at least serious injury, but I didn't notice this shot.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:34 am 
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Prince Judah
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I watched Rio Bravo again - I have a special 2-disc DVD. I still want to watch it with audio commentary; this edition includes commentary by director John Carpenter. There are also extra features on the 2nd disc that I still have to check out. I'll save any further remarks on this film until I see all these features.

I just found out a short while ago that the TCM Channel is running many of John Wayne's films back-to-back for perhaps as long as a whole week, as part of their "Star of the Month" tribute. The channel is currently running his really old films from the thirties, the cheap westerns he was in before Stagecoach, which made him a big star. Coming up next, for example, is The Telegraph Trail (1933). I just watched about half of a film called Baby Face (1933) starring Barbara Stanwyck; Wayne had only one scene in it. The guest host with regular host Robert Osborne is an expert on Wayne and explained it this way: after The Big Trail flop, Wayne - in the 1930s - either had big roles in small films or small roles in big films (until Stagecoach). Baby Face was a relatively big and controversial Stanwyck starring vehicle back then, and Wayne just has one scene seated behind a desk, trying to convince his boss of something. According to the expert, Wayne probably found such small roles demeaning, thinking he could do way better, but he was stuck in the business he was in - for that time, at least. It was also mentioned that Stanwyck regretted never appearing with Wayne in any future films.

Anyway, after a few more of his old thirties films, the TCM Channel will begin showing his later classic films, Stagecoach and so on. This will last for at least a few days; quite a marathon, a whole bunch of his films (can you imagine the channel doing the same thing with Heston's films? Wouldn't that be something). So, anyone here who gets that channel, you'll have a chance to catch many of the Duke's films this week. I wish I had been aware of it earlier so that there was more time to let everyone here know, but - then again - there was no John Wayne thread here up until very recently.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:34 pm 
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Nice to hear you enjoyed Hondo, I didn't realise it was originally in 3D until after my first viewing I believe, so those shots surprised me as well. There are a lot of stories about his female lead, Geraldine Page, during the filming of Hondo. Most of them are not flattering, like her not bathing or brushing her teeth during the entire shoot :-? Looking forward to your thoughts on Rio Bravo.

I have a box set with some of those John Wayne movies from the 30's before he became a star. I haven't watched any of them yet though. They're pretty short, about an hour each. Will be weird to watch a movie that short when I'm used to much longer ones.

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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne
PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 6:16 am 
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Prince Judah
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Detective Thorn wrote:
Nice to hear you enjoyed Hondo, I didn't realise it was originally in 3D until after my first viewing I believe, so those shots surprised me as well. There are a lot of stories about his female lead, Geraldine Page, during the filming of Hondo. Most of them are not flattering, like her not bathing or brushing her teeth during the entire shoot :-?

Yeah :lol: - this was mentioned about Page in one of the featurettes or mini-documentaries on the DVD. The person saying this also gave her the benefit of the doubt - that she was doing this as some kind of Method acting, to really 'get into' the role of a real frontier woman, but it sounds a little gross anyway; she was also described as "Bohemian" - meaning she might have just been that way, like some beatnik. It reminds me of stories of other actors such as Tom Cruise: in one of his very early roles, in The Outsiders (83), in which he played a lower class punk, Cruise didn't shower or wash, to 'get into' the role. It might be commendable for an actor to take such measures for a role, but it's the other actors in the film with him who have to suffer through it... :lol:

Detective Thorn wrote:
I have a box set with some of those John Wayne movies from the 30's before he became a star. I haven't watched any of them yet though. They're pretty short, about an hour each. Will be weird to watch a movie that short when I'm used to much longer ones.
Yep, I watched a few of these old Wayne films the other day during this current marathon on TCM; some of them were only about an hour long. One of the better ones - a western - was The Star Packer (34) - a weird title nowadays, but I think it refers to a lawman who packs a tin star on his chest. An offbeat plot too - the secret villain gives instructions to his gang from what looks like a safe in a wall but is a secret room. It all resembled those old serials about comic book-styled villains and heroes. The whole thing was less than an hour - like a TV episode.


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