Connect with us


Every John Ford & John Wayne Western, Ranked – My Blog

Director John Ford made some of the most legendary western films in cinematic history, and his frequent collaborator John Wayne often added his cowboy star power to those classics. Highly respected by his contemporaries for his lavish camerawork and on-location shooting style, Ford’s 50-year career in cinema earned him four Best Director Oscars among a slew of other accolades. Similarly, Wayne’s massive movie and TV catalog earned him a reputation as one of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars, and he won the Best Actor Oscar for his turn in the film True Grit towards the end of his career in 1970.Starting with 1939’s Stagecoach, the actor-director pair would collaborate for a total of 14 feature films, with nine of them being their signature westerns. Though Wayne attempted to break away from westerns at one point in his career, his cowboy roles were what made him famous, and Ford helped to make him a movie star. Unlike most cookie-cutter westerns of Old Hollywood, the works of Ford usually contained richer themes that not only explored the outer world of the West, but also the inner worlds of the hardened cowboys and cavalrymen that made up the cast of characters.9Rio Grande (1950)

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara pose for a promo image for Rio Grande

1950’s Rio Grande was the finale of the “Cavalry Trilogy” and saw Wayne reprise his role as Kirby Yorke who had been promoted to Lt. Colonel in the years since 1948’s Fort Apache. The film followed Yorke as his estranged son (Claude Jarman Jr.) arrived as a soldier in his regiment, and the return of Yorke’s wife (Maureen O’Hara) further complicated matters. Though it was the worst of Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy”, Rio Grande was nevertheless a serviceable western in its own right. What the film lacked was deeper meaning, and its well-tread plot was devoid of the themes and subtlety of other Ford westerns.8The Horse Soldiers (1959)
John Wayne stands among his men in The Horse Soldiers

Though a western to its core, 1959’s The Horse Soldiers was set in the American South during the Civil War. The film followed Colonel John Marlowe (Wayne), as he led his Union soldiers during a raid on a raid in Mississippi. Wayne played his usual swaggering hero who kissed the girl at the end, and the movie’s exploration of the psychology of war was left to William Holden’s character, Major Kendall. While it was considered by some to be a great Civil War movie, The Horse Soldiers did grossly oversimplify the historical events represented in the film. While Holden and Wayne were both stars, the former outshone the latter.73 Godfathers (1948)
Three men look out over the landscape in 3 Godfathers
Ford wasn’t known for his by-the-numbers westerns, but aspects of 3 Godfathers from 1948, didn’t ring true. In the film, a trio of desperadoes (Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz, and Harry Carey Jr.) go on the lam after robbing a bank but gain custody of a newborn baby that they swear to protect. Eschewing action sequences, the film relied on the characters to shine and they did so somewhat. Elements of humor spiced up the story at times, but the cheesy ending smacked of the Hollywood gloss that Ford’s films typically didn’t have. Ultimately, 3 Godfathers‘ references to the biblical story of the Three Wise Men were too conspicuously hammered home.6How The West Was Won (1962)
John Wayne smokes a cigar in How the West Was Won
A favorite western of filmmakers like John Carpenter, How the West Was Won from 1962 was Ford and Wayne’s last collaboration, and it was also their grandest in terms of scale. The nearly three-hour epic featured six short stories that chronicled the American settlement of the West. Wayne starred in the Civil War portion that was directed by Ford, where he played Union General William Tecumseh Sherman in a small role. More of a cameo than Wayne’s usual starring parts, his turn as the legendary Union General allowed his name to be added to the film’s impressive ensemble cast, but it did little else.How the West Was Won was a true Hollywood epic, and it was shot on three-lens Cinerama with the intention of it being played on a large curved screen. Though the classic movie theater gimmick didn’t stand the test of time, the film itself was a summation of the western genre and covered everything from cowboy outlaws to ruddy pioneers. Ford and Wayne’s contributions to the film were relatively small, but it still managed to earn a total of eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and won for Best Writing, Best Sound, and Best Editing.5She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949)
John Wayne shouts on horseback from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The second film in the “Cavalry Trilogy” saw Wayne in an entirely different role as Cavalry Captain Nathan Brittles. 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon featured Captain Brittles on the eve of retirement, as he is given a final mission to stop the outbreak of another bloody plains war. Like the previous film in the trilogy, Fort Apache, the movie’s depiction of Native Americans was a notch above the stereotypical portrayals in most classic westerns. The best western movie protagonists were usually all about fighting, but Brittles was unique in that he actively wanted to avoid a war.Not only did Brittles treat his Indigenous acquaintances with dignity, but he had learned from the horrors of other wars and didn’t wish to repeat them. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was somewhat more lighthearted than its predecessor, and it allowed Wayne to be more than the gun-toting cowboy that he had been typecast as. Visually, the movie was a stunning representation of the range of Technicolor film, and cinematographer Winton C. Hoch won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Color, for his stylish and sweeping use of the camera.4Fort Apache (1948)
John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple in Fort Apache.
Kicking off the “Cavalry Trilogy” with a bang, 1948’s Fort Apache blended the western with the war film in a final product that was surprisingly progressive for a 1940s Hollywood movie. In the film, Captain Kirby York (Wayne) was passed up for command of the titular fort in favor of the arrogant and inexperienced Lt. Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) who couldn’t quell tensions with the local Native American tribes. In a brilliant reversal of roles, Fonda was excellent as the infuriatingly strict Lt. Colonel Thursday, and the film’s sympathetic view towards Indigenous people was embodied through Wayne’s portrayal of the somewhat jaded Captain York.Along with other Hollywood icons like Shirley Temple and John Agar, the cast was robust and star-studded without sacrificing any of the rich themes that subtly ran throughout the story. The clashes between York and Thursday allowed Wayne and Fonda to show why they were chosen as two of the best movie stars by the AFI, and it wasn’t without a fair amount of action either. Though all three films in the “Cavalry Trilogy” were linked by the same themes of anti-war and somewhat progressive attitudes towards Native Americans, Fort Apache excelled at those ideas more so than its successors.3The Searchers (1956)
John Wayne on horseback in The Searchers
A thread of darkness ran through all of Ford’s westerns, but 1956’s The Searchers was perhaps his most complicated and multilayered film he made with Wayne. The film followed Ethan Edwards (Wayne) who embarked on a years-long quest to recover his niece who had been abducted by Native Americans. Most remembered for its grand scale and breathtaking cinematography, The Searchers was as much about the outward grandeur of the West as it was about the inner struggle within Edwards and his mad quest for revenge. Though Wayne appeared in numerous westerns, no character was as dynamic as his take on Ethan Edwards.Though modern reassessments of the film have been less forgiving because of its depiction of Indigenous communities as outwardly violent, the film could be seen as more fanciful than factual. Edward’s lengthy quest for revenge mirrored the obsessions of literary figures like Captain Ahab, and there was no doubt that Wayne’s take on the character made him the true villain of the piece. While it was named the greatest American western of all time by the AFI in 2008, The Searchers was certainly Ford’s most flawed masterpiece.2The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
James Stewart fires a gun in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The best Wayne movies allowed “The Duke” to shed his typical cowboy machismo, and his turn in 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was a nuanced performance. The story was told in flashback as Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) recalled his brush with the outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) who terrorized the town of Shinbone years earlier. Ford chose to shoot the movie in black and white as opposed to color, and the monochrome approach shined a spotlight on the acting and stripped away the distractions. The script’s use of flashback was an interesting touch for the western genre, and Stewart’s transition to the Old West was effortless.Unlike many classic westerns that have lost their luster through modern reassessment, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only grew in reputation thanks to its clever use of plot devices and its twist ending. Westerns were always somewhat straightforward in their approach to story, but the ending of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valancewas challenging and modern for a film from the early-’60s. Wayne and Stewart received high praise for their performances, and costume designer Edith Head scored an Oscar Nomination for her beautiful work on the film.1Stagecoach (1939)
Ringo Kid looks out of the stagecoach in Stagecoach
Ford’s first collaboration with Wayne not only made the latter a star, but it launched an artistic partnership that would last for decades. 1939’s Stagecoach followed a group of travelers as they were escorted through the wilderness from Arizona to New Mexico. Truly one of the first westerns to transcend the genre, Stagecoach broke the mold by introducing characters that were more archetypal than literal. Each member of the stagecoach party represented an outcast part of society, and in their mutual struggles for acceptance, they found community in the figurative wasteland.Wayne’s Ringo Kid was almost a parody of the western movie tropes of the previous decade, but it allowed the young actor to shine with a star-making performance. Not without its modern criticism for its depiction of Native Americans, Stagecoach was very much a product of its time despite being incredibly modern for a 1930s film. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards including a Best Director nod for John Ford, and it managed to win two including Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Mitchell. Though he won no awards, John Wayne was the biggest winner in Stagecoach, and Ringo Kid was a role that launched his iconic career.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


‘It Was a Pretty Miserable Experience’ – My Blog

John Wayne has worked in a wide variety of filming locations over the course of his career. However, they didn’t all provide comfortable conditions for the cast and crew. Wayne’s son, Patrick, once noted the “worst” film location of them all, calling one of his dad’s filming locations a “pretty miserable experience.” Nevertheless, he still enjoyed making movies with his father.

John Wayne’s son, Patrick, worked with his dad on film locations
'The Green Berets' filming location John Wayne pulling a wagon along

Patrick followed in his father’s acting footsteps. His first roles included uncredited roles at Wayne’s filming locations, which gained him momentum moving forward into bigger roles. Some of these include Rio Grande, The Searchers, The Alamo, and The Quiet Man. However, he later moved more into managing the John Wayne Cancer Institute, which pushes to advance research in the fight against cancer.

Patrick has a wide array of stories from the Wayne filming locations. His father remains one of the most iconic Western actors of all time. Patrick looked up to his dad, but they didn’t always have the best time on the set of the more grueling filming location.
‘The Green Berets’ was the ‘worst’ John Wayne film location for his son, Patrick

Jeremy Roberts interviewed Patrick for Medium about some of the iconic Wayne filming locations. He explained that there was one set, in particular, that he just couldn’t stand.
“That would have to be The Green Berets,” Patrick said. “We were on location at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, which is located about 125 miles west of Atlanta. But it was nothing like Atlanta.”
Patrick continued: “Oh my God, it was pretty dreary. That’s fine but it started raining to the point of where we couldn’t even work. Boy, there was nothing to do except sit there and wait ’til it stopped raining. It was a pretty miserable experience from the weather aspect at that time [filming commenced on August 9, 1967]. It was past the worst part of the summer, so the humidity wasn’t that bad.”
Wayne’s difficult conditions on the Green Berets filming location makes sense for the movie’s story. It follows Col. Mike Kirby (Wayne), who selects two teams of Green Berets for a specific mission in South Vietnam. They must build and run a camp that the enemy seeks to capture, but that isn’t all. They must also kidnap a North Vietnamese General behind enemy lines.
‘The Green Berets’ is a controversial war movie

The Green Berets succeeded at the box office, but critics found the film incredibly controversial. They slammed the film for being heavy-handed and predictable. However, its war politics particularly upset a lot of critics. Nevertheless, The Green Berets easily sold tickets to audiences, making it a financial success.
Wayne went through some rough conditions on the filming location, but it proved to be worth his time. Despite its politics, the film made the legendary actor a large sum of money and remains a well-known war picture. It was also an opportunity for Patrick to work with his father on another film.

Continue Reading


Ann-Margret’s precious memories of ‘teddy bear’ Duke on The Train Robbers – My Blog

JOHN WAYNE was “slightly infirm” on The Train Robbers but tenaciously pushed through filming despite two fractured ribs, balance issues and a daily lie down, according to co-star Rod Taylor. Ann-Margret remembers Duke appearing strong despite his declining health and admitted the Western star “gave me the confidence I lacked”.

By the 1970s, John Wayne was coming towards the end of his career as a Hollywood star. In 1973, aged 65-years-old, he had been living with one lung for the best part of 10 years and was suffering from emphysema on the remaining one. That year he released two Westerns which aren’t remembered as his best but saw the ageing icon carry on with much determination. One of the films was The Train Robbers, which co-starred Ann-Margret and Rod Taylor.
The Train Robbers saw Ann-Margret’s feisty widow work alongside three cowboys in recovering a cage of gold that was stolen by her late husband.
Before shooting started, Wayne had fractured two of his ribs, which was so painful he struggled to sleep at night.

This meant that his action scenes had to be scaled down and co-star Taylor remembered Duke being “slightly” infirm during the shoot.
The Time Machine star said the Western legend had trouble with his balance and understandably needed afternoon naps.
train robbers cast

Despite his health problems on the movie, Wayne refused to delay filming and strived forwards.
Ann-Margret had fond memories of her co-star’s tenacity, recalling: “Duke was still a strong, rugged, formidable man, larger-than-life and incredibly personal. He was a big teddy bear, and we got along famously. Duke gave me the confidence I lacked.”
The Viva Las Vegas star appreciated this given that 1972 had been a very difficult time in her life, having been seriously injured when performing in her Lake Tahoe show.
john and ann
Ann-Margret felt John Wayne gave her the confidence boost she needed (Image: GETTY)
train robbers poster
The Train Robbers poster (Image: GETTY)
In terms of the confidence boost she needed, the actress had to overcome her fear of horses as there was much riding needed for her character. It was here that Wayne gave her the support she needed.
The Train Robbers had average reviews and later Quentin Tarantino would comment the film was “so light it’s barely a movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not amusing.”
Wayne also released Cahill: US Marshall in 1973, which saw a significantly weakened Wayne having to use a stepladder to climb onto a horse.
That year also marked the death of his most famous collaborator, the director John Ford.
Upon news of the filmmakers’ death that August, Wayne told journalists: “I’m pretty much living on borrowed time.”
Duke would go on to make a couple of better-reviewed Westerns in True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn opposite Katherine Hepburn and The Shootist.
The latter film was his final one and saw him playing a terminally ill gunfighter.
The Hollywood icon himself died of cancer just a couple of years later in 1979.

Continue Reading


John Wayne Snuck An Emotional Tribute Into The Searchers’ Final Scene – My Blog

Celebrity culture has been around since the advent of film. The stars of the silver screen become our heroes, and sometimes they transcend to become almost mythical heroes. John Wayne is one of those actors, a name that instantly floods your mind with specific images and characters. Wayne would become synonymous with the Western genre during Hollywood’s classical film period and defined masculinity through memorable roles such as Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit,” Sheriff John T. Chance in “Rio Bravo,” and Lt. Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort in “The Longest Day.”

Because he’s so well known for his iconic tough-guy image, it’s hard to imagine a young Marion Robert Morrison (Wayne’s given name) looking up to a hero. And yet, “The Duke” tipped his hat and secretly told us. A small unscripted gesture in one of his most famous films gave us a glimpse at his softer side and a clue as to just who might have been Wayne’s childhood hero.
It is beautiful in its simplicity
John Wayne standing in doorway

John Ford’s 1956 film “The Searchers” was groundbreaking in how it challenged the racist male heroes of early Westerns. The film stars John Wayne as Ethan Edwards in what many consider Wayne’s most memorable role. Edwards is not a strong, likable hero but rather a bitter, racist loner who is redeemed only in the final moments of the film. Scott Allen Nollen’s book “Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond” describes how Wayne’s unscripted gesture in the final moments of “The Searchers” was an homage to a childhood hero, early Western star Harry Carey. The final shot of the film has Wayne standing in a doorway by himself before turning to ride off alone (presumably into the sunset).
The shot is brilliantly framed and lit by Ford, with the interior of the house dark, emphasizing the solitude of Edwards’ life as he walks away from what little family he has left. Just before turning to leave, Wayne made a familiar gesture that was not in the script. Nollen writes:
“He was to look and then walk away, but just before he turned, he saw Ollie Carey, the widow of his all-time hero, standing behind the camera. It was as natural as taking a breath. Duke raised his left hand, reached across his chest, and grabbed his right arm at the elbow. Harry Carey did that a lot in the movies when Duke was a kid in Glendale, California. He’d spent many a dime just to see that.”It was beautiful in its simplicity, like the scene it occurred in. But the gesture was a nod to much more than Carey himself.
‘One of the most resonant gestures in the entire body of Ford’s work’
Harry Carey at saloon
Before Ford’s relationship with John Wayne, there was Harry Carey. To put it in a modern context, it was like Martin Scorsese collaborating with Robert De Niro before his work with Leonardo DiCaprio. According to Mostly Westerns, the pair collaborated on more than two dozen films, and Ford said that he learned a lot about the industry with Carey as his tutor. It was during these early days of the Western where Carey would develop his iconic arm pose where he grabs his right arm with his left hand at the elbow. The gesture would permeate throughout Ford’s films by other actors.
The pose can be seen at the 1:09:30 mark of Ford’s 1917 film “Straight Shooting.”

After Carey died in 1947, Ford would continue to cast Carey family members including Harry Carey, Jr. Both Harry Jr. and Carey’s widow Olive appeared in “The Searchers.” And though the brief gesture might have been inspired by Carey’s widow, it was felt far beyond the Carey family. As Nollen notes:
“Joseph McBride referred to Wayne’s spontaneous, profound re-creation in ‘The Searchers’ as ‘one of the most resonant gestures in the entire body of Ford’s work, a gesture movingly encapsulating whole lifetimes of shared tradition.’”It turns out the rough, tough cowboy John Wayne did indeed have a hero. He also showed his soft side in paying tribute to Carey, his family, and the Western icons that came before him.

Continue Reading