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In addition to John Wayne, he starred with William Holden, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Maureen O’Hara, Marlon Brando, Charles Bronson

Actor Ben Johnson and I were sitting on the rail of an old wooden fence at Hastiin sani (Old Man) Cly’s place in Monument Valley. Some of the riders were inside the corral getting acquainted with their horses when Hosteen (Mr.) Cly walked over and shook hands with Ben. They had known each other since the late 1940s, when Ben first started making pictures for director, John Ford.

“Do you guys want to see Tombstone?” He was grinning like a mule eating cactus.We knew “Tombstone” was located in the valley between Cly’s place and Goulding’s Trading Post. In 1946 John Ford shot My Darling Clementine in Monument Valley, and construction crews had built the Western town of Tombstone. We looked off toward Goulding’s but saw nothing but open space. Tombstone was gone. We looked back at the old Navajo. He gave us one of those “gotcha” looks and said, “You’re sittin’ on it.”
That old corral fence we were roosting on had been one of the buildings in the film. Lumber is as scarce in Monument Valley as horseflies in December, and when Ford was finished filming, he must have donated Tombstone to the Navajos, who proceeded to dismantle it and use the lumber for more practical things such as corrals.We were sitting on a piece of Hollywood history.
Dream RideDuring the spring of 1996, Arizona Highways magazine editor Bob Early asked photographer Gary Johnson and me to join legendary actor Ben Johnson, on a sentimental journey at the place where Hollywood director John Ford had “discovered” him in the late 1940s while filming Fort Apache, one of his Cavalry Trilogy.

Gary and I met in the early 1970s when he was a student in my Southwest History class at Coronado High School in Scottsdale, and we’d remained friends through the years, appearing together at cowboy poet gatherings and folk festivals. I’d watched him grow, become a real fine entertainer and photographer. We’d done quite a few stage performances and appearances, and now we were in Monument Valley on a photographer and writer’s dream assignment.
The first time I became aware of Ben Johnson was in 1948 when the first of John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, Fort Apache was released. A year later came She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, followed in 1950 by Rio Grande. All three came to the little Yavapai Theater in my hometown of Ash Fork, Arizona, a small railroad town on Route 66 about 50 miles west of Flagstaff. Growing up around horses, I was fascinated by Ben’s skills as a horseman. He would gracefully glide into the saddle so smoothly, it looked like horse and rider were one. Now, here I was forty-six years later bunking in a two-man tent in Monument Valley with the cowboy hero of my youth.
I met Ben at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. In those days it was the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum. He was there with Sam Elliott, Tom Selleck, Jeff Osterhage, Slim Pickens and Louis L’Amour to pick up an award for the made-for-television Western film, The Sacketts. How did I wind up in that room with those guys that afternoon? I was there to donate a copy of my book Arizona to the museum library. Fortunately, nobody asked about my latest film. So, I lit up a cigar and joined in.
From Oklahoma to HollywoodBen was born in 1918 in Foraker, Oklahoma, on the Osage Indian Reservation of Irish and Osage ancestry. His father, Ben Sr., was a rancher in Osage County and a three-time world champion rodeo cowboy.
He credits Howard Hughes for bringing him out to Hollywood from Oklahoma in the late 1930s. Hughes had bought some horses from a ranch where Ben worked and liked the way he handled horses, so he offered him a job bringing them to northern Arizona where they were filming The Outlaw starring Jane Russell. Ben’s wages jumped from $40 a week to $175. “It didn’t take me long to figure out this was a good deal,” he said.
When the filming was finished, Ben shepherded the horses by rail on to California, where he managed to find work in the movies. During the early 1940s, he wrangled and did stunt doubling for John Wayne, James Stewart, Joel McCrea and Gary Cooper.
In 1941 Ben married Carol Jones, daughter of Clarence “Fat” Jones, top supplier of horses and wranglers in North Hollywood for more than 50 years. They were married until her death in 1994.
Hughes introduced Ben to director John Ford, who also liked the way he handled horses and hired him to do some stunt work and double for Henry Fonda in the 1948 film Fort Apache. He played an Apache warrior in the early morning and a cavalry trooper in the afternoon. “Trouble was,” he recalled, I was half-naked in the morning when it was freezing cold, then burning up in that wool Army uniform in the heat of the afternoon.”
One day a team of horses pulling a wagon spooked and stampeded with three actors on board. Ben, seeing an accident in the making, rode after the team and “just like in the movies,” grabbed the halter on the lead horse, possibly saving the actors from serious injury or worse.
Afterward, Ford promised him more work.
Ben tells what happened next. “I thought maybe he might give me a speaking part in his next film. He invited me into his office one day and told me to sit down, then he handed me a piece of paper. I read down to about the third line and saw ‘$5,000 a week.’ I stopped reading, grabbed a pen and signed it.”
He paused a moment and grinned. “I didn’t even ask what I had to do.”
Ben was able to demonstrate his riding skills again in 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and 1950’s Rio Grande, completing Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy. In both he played either Sergeant or Trooper Tyree.
In 1950 he appeared in Three Godfathers, with Harry Carey Jr. and Pedro Armendariz. The film is notable for the incredible riding skills demonstrated by the three.
When someone mentioned what a great rider he was, Ben would modestly reply, “I wasn’t a good actor, so I had to be able to do something.”
Ford suggested him for the lead role in the 1949 film, Mighty Joe Young costarring with the beautiful actress, Terry Moore, and during the filming they became good friends. He recalled that after the film was released, Howard Hughes called and wanted Ben to introduce him to the actress. He did, and soon after the two married. The marriage didn’t last, but when Hughes died, women crawled out of the woodwork claiming to have been wedded to the famous billionaire. Hughes’s attorneys immediately went to work proving the women were scammers. They tried to thwart Terry, but she fought back, proved her case and won. Ben called her later that day and said, “Terry, you owe me big time.” The two friends had a good laugh.
Above the LineBen got his first starring role in a Western with Harry Carey Jr. and Joanne Dru a year later in Wagon Master, filmed of course, in Monument Valley. Critics called it one of Ford’s masterpieces. Ben went on to become one of Hollywood’s most popular actors, playing everything from a devil-may-care cowboy, bad man and gunman to curmudgeon and old-timer.
In addition to John Wayne, he starred with William Holden, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Maureen O’Hara, Marlon Brando, Charles Bronson, Alan Ladd, Burt Reynolds and many more.
He was one of the all-time great horsemen in the business. Ironically, he won an Academy Award for a film he didn’t ride a horse in—The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich’s film about the interwoven lives of people in a small 1950s Texas town.
Ben almost didn’t sign on to The Last Picture Show. The first time he saw the script, he rejected it saying, “It was the worst thing I ever read. Every other word that I had was a cuss word, so I turned it down.” John Ford asked him to do it as a personal favor, so Ben agreed to do it on one condition; “I rewrote my part, and I didn’t have to say one dirty word.”
Bogdanovich would later admiringly refer to Ben as “the real thing.”
One of the reasons for Ben’s great success on the silver screen was that in real life he was pretty much like those characters he played in some 300 movies. He was fond of saying, “I get paid a lot of money for playing Ben Johnson.”
John Ford’s last words to him were, “Ben, don’t forget to stay real.”
Valley of the GodsBen enjoyed visiting the various places in Monument Valley, reminiscing about something that happened during the shoot. One time while filming Wagon Master, he was being pursued by a band of Navajo warriors. “I rode to this bluff and was supposed to turn and ride along the ridge, but the horse I was on got a case of cold jaw and wouldn’t respond to the bit. He jumped off that bluff, and we landed in sand up to his belly. The reins were lying in the sand, so I picked ’em up, spurred him and off we went.”
That unintended leap was later measured at 32 feet, and the scene came to be known as one of the greatest examples of horsemanship ever filmed.
That explains why Ben was one of Ford’s favorites. He could always handle the unexpected and make a scene work.
One afternoon Ben waited on a ridge for Gary and me to gather around. Then he pointed toward the twin buttes called the Mittens.
We were filming She Wore a Yellow Ribbon when a big thunderstorm rolled in. Lightning was bouncing off those buttes, so the assistant director told the actors and crew to pack it in. Mr. Ford liked to of had a fit. ‘I’ll tell you when to cut.’ We were pretty scared of the lightning, but we were more scared of John Ford, so we kept shooting.”
Thanks in part to that scene, the film’s cinematographer, a Ford company favorite, Winton C. Hoch, won an Oscar for cinematography.

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The Man, the Problem, and His Manliest Movies – My Blog

The problematic John Wayne became a fierce force in American cinema as the designated leading man in a series of big budget films. In an era full of trauma and sadness, Wayne as an American symbol, represents a significant contribution to the world during the time of uncertainty and panic.

As his career elevated in the midst of WWII, he rose through the ranks as the single most popular actor in Hollywood’s history. The reason that Wayne had become increasingly famous was associated with his no-nonsense characters that male viewers related to and women gravitated towards prior to the cultural changes of the 1960s. He brought to light this persona of elevated masculinity that was culturally striking to watch. From Academy Awards to a rich career that very few have been able to achieve, the praise associated with his on-screen portrayals will live on through generations.
In a successful career spanning over 50 years and 169 movies, Wayne has had his highs, in addition to his fair share of criticism, which is ultimately impossible to ignore. During a 1971 Playboy Magazine interview, Wayne made comments speaking negatively against the African-American community and making a series of homophobic slurs, while directly addressing his belief in white supremacy. Some have marked this up to be a time sensitive issue, with societal problems and norms being completely different from what it is now (or is it?). The truth is, this stuff was said, and it hasn’t gone over well since the interview resurfaced, with John Wayne’s legacy denounced by many.
Taking a moment to separate the man from his artistry is quite a difficult task, and directly addressing the controversies of his past comments creates difficult decisions that can often lead to either supporting art and ignoring prejudice, or completely erasing history. What people can all agree on is that his work ultimately changed the scope of Hollywood cinema, and how masculinity and machismo are portrayed through verbal and physical modes of storytelling. Thus, instead of calling these films his ‘best performances,’ perhaps we should consider these movies to have the most macho roles from John Wayne, a problematic actor who presents culture with a fascinating way to dissect American masculinity.

6 The Barbarian and the Geisha

The Barbarian and the Geisha is based on the true story of Townsend Harris, an American diplomat who was sent to the country of Japan in order to serve as a U.S. consul member. Wayne plays Harris as he is met by residents in the small village of Shimoda who rejects his diplomatic status, prompting a cultural split in Japan’s mistrust in the influence of the west. Through all the social and political clashes, Harris meets a 17-year-old geisha by the name of Okichi, falling in love with her while she aides him in softening the division. Wayne was 51 at the time.
5 Tycoon

Hired by a South American tycoon Frederick Alexander (Cedric Hardwicke) to construct a tunnel through the Andes Mountains, American engineer Johnny Munroe (John Wayne) falls in love with Alexander’s daughter, Maura (Laraine Day). As Munroe faces challenges in making progress in the job he was assigned to complete, he also faces opposition in convincing the overprotective father of Maura (and his boss) that he is a worthy suitor for the man’s (20 years younger) daughter. Tycoon, like The Barbarian and the Geisha, feeds the male ego and fantasy of viewers, presenting Wayne (and the all-American male) as a sex symbol for much younger women.
4 Island in the Sky

Island in the Sky incorporates pieces of experiences from pilot Ernest Gann (later related in his 1961 autobiographical book Fate is the Hunter) emphasizing his flying career. In this World War II movie, Gann and the pilots he traveled with search for a lost pilot of the team in northern Canada. In the film, Capt. Dooley (John Wayne) has to crash-land his plane in the icy landscape of Canada. While setting out to fly supplies in England during World War II, Dooley and his crew fight to survive in the unfamiliar territory. Though it’s an ensemble film, Wayne continues his white-knight heroic approach to narrative form.
3 The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers, a modernized version of the classic tale, finds American fighter pilot Lt. Tom Wayne (John Wayne) traveling to visit his romantic love interest, Elaine Corday (Ruth Hall). Along the way, he gets involved in the war taking place in the Sahara Desert (between the French Legion and a group of Arabic arms smugglers) to rescue a group of legionnaires who were besieged by the opposition fighters. Tom’s new friends recruit him in order to help them efficiently identify the mole secretly working for the Arabic group, so long as they can survive the desert in an almost ‘characters against nature’ way. Again, the film glorifies and romanticizes the heroics of American militarism and the white-knight trope.
2 Allegheny Uprising

Jim Smith (John Wayne) leads a militant group throughout colonial America, setting out to discover who is supplying the area of Native American tribes with various key weapons. Smith suspects Ralph Callendar (Brian Donlevy) to be the traitor among the group, but there has not yet been any proof to support this theory. He strives to pinpoint the corruption among him and his team, as the British commander Capt. Swanson (George Sanders) disregards his concerns. Allegheny Uprising taps into the American fantasy and paranoia of fighting the British and colonizing Natives, and Wayne fits in perfectly.
1 Rio Lobo

The American Western Rio Lobo is set in a post-Civil War environment, and was the last film directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, concluding his American trilogy of Westerns preceded by Rio Bravo and El Dorado, which all uses the West to explore identity. As Cord McNally (John Wayne), a local Union leader, protects an incoming gold shipment, his fellow troops are suddenly attacked by an influx of Confederate forces. In this encounter, McNally looses the gold he was supposed to protect as well as his friend and officer who was killed in the raid. As McNally travels to the town of Rio Lobo, he learns the Confederate forces had direct help from the inside of his team. In his visit, McNally sets out to learn the identity of the traitors. Released in 1970, Wayne was playing to a wholly different American culture that had passed him by, and the film was a box office failure. He would make his Playboy comments the next year.

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‘He knew he wasn’t going to be around when I was older’ – My Blog

Ethan Wayne, John Wayne’s youngest son, talks about what it was like growing up with his famous father and how he’s keeping his legacy alive today.

Ethan Wayne said a day at his friend’s house made him realize his father was different.
The now-56-year-old is the youngest son of late Hollywood legend John Wayne and Peruvian actress Pilar Pallete, his third and last wife. He’s currently the president of John Wayne Enterprises and director of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. This year, he helped release a bourbon based on the patriarch’s own recipe.
“I can remember going to a friend’s house and his mom said, ‘Hey Brian, go get the mail,’” recalled Wayne. “I went out and there were three envelopes. I remember going, ‘That’s all the mail you got? That’s weird.’ The US postal service would drag those canvas bags with lots of mail to my house. It was strange.”

Gettin' back in the lane with John Wayne's youngest son | by Jeremy Roberts  | Medium

Despite Wayne having an iconic movie star for a father, he described his childhood as normal — one that involved living in then-small town Newport Beach, Calif. with other families in the same neighborhood, surrounded by oranges and strawberry farms.
There were no security or bodyguards. John answered his own door and telephone. He was an early riser who exercised alongside his son and studied his scripts before heading to work. He often spent his free time on his boat, admiring the great sea he loved. He would catch his own fish and cook it on the beach, as well as interact with locals.
John was 56 when Ethan was born — and he made sure his son never forgot to do chores around the house.
“I can’t pick up a broom to this day without thinking about him coming out and saying, ‘That’s not how you sweep, this is how you sweep!’” chuckled Wayne. “And it was with this big push broom. And he wasn’t very mechanical. He was great with his gun, he was great on a horse and he handled boats really well. But if a car got a flat tire, he’d just leave it. And I was very mechanical as a young boy for some reason. I really enjoyed taking stuff apart and putting it back together. He really didn’t get it. He didn’t like motorcycles, and I did.”
Wayne said that despite his father’s high-profile career, John, who was aware he might be gone by the time his son was a young man, was determined to be a hands-on parent. Wayne described growing up on film sets and learning about the hard work it took to bring Hollywood to life.
“He took with me on location,” Wayne explained. “I’d be homeschooled down on location in Mexico because he knew he wasn’t going to be around for me when I was older, and that he would probably lose me while I was young, teenage man. So he took me with him when I was little. And one of my jobs was to load the car with all the personal items that he wanted with him when he would make a film somewhere remote. Or if he went on his boat, the Wild Goose.
Gettin' back in the lane with John Wayne's youngest son | by Jeremy Roberts  | Medium
“He would take his own bourbon, and that bourbon was the heaviest thing that I would carry. Everyone wanted to have a drink with John Wayne. I would also carry his packs of candy, special food items, shoes, gloves, jackets. Definitely bags of hats.”
In his lifetime, John or “The Duke,” as he was called by fans, made more than 200 films in over 50 years. According to The New York Times, by the early 1960s, 161 of his films had grossed $350 million, and when he died in 1979 he had been paid as much as $666,000 to make a movie.
As an avid outdoorsman, both in front and behind the camera, he is still celebrated as one of the greatest figures of the Western genre.
“I was 10 when he was 66 years old,” said Wayne. “[And] he’s on a horse, he’s running at full speed across open country, with a herd of horses running with him… he was a bold, outgoing individual who was full of life, constantly moving forward… And nobody sits on a horse like John Wayne does.”
John Wayne's son recalls growing up with 'The Duke': 'He knew he wasn't  going to be around when I was older' | Fox News
Wayne wasn’t around when the Iowa native, a former football star in high school who worked as a truck driver, fruit picker, soda jerk and ice hauler, first embarked on his career as an actor. However, Wayne said the rugged persona he embodied on screen was very much the real deal.
“I read stories [of] when he was first starting out and how he was very uncomfortable and felt awkward,” said Wayne. “He didn’t like the way he moved, so he talked to John Ford and met Wyatt Earp… He started taking pieces of these guys and putting them together into a character that became John Wayne, who was definitely part of my father. There was also fantasy. He was a heck of a gunman and a horseman, but he also certainly knew the craft of film and storytelling. We were never in a gunfight.”
John passed away at age 72 from cancer. Wayne, who was 17 at the time of his father’s death, said he drove John to UCLA Medical Center when he wasn’t feeling well. John never came out alive.
Before his death, John stressed to his family that the doctors attempting to find a cure for cancer should never be forgotten. He left behind seven children from his marriages and more than 15 grandchildren.

Wayne credited stuntman Gary McLarty, a friend of his father’s, for taking him under his wing and helping him cope with his grief.
“He would take me on a motorcycle ride or racing sometimes,” said Wayne. “He was [later] the stunt coordinator for ‘The Blues Brothers.’ And for some reason, he hired me. And it was in a time when I’d missed the last part of my junior year with my dad. When my father was involved in my life, I was good at school and things went well. But afterward, I wasn’t very focused on school… [Gary] gave me a little direction that I didn’t have. I’m eternally grateful to him. It probably kept me from making some mistakes.”
John recently lassoed in headlines for a completely different reason. In 2016, The Guardian reported California lawmakers rejected a proposal to create John Wayne Day to mark his birthday after several legislators described statements he made about racial minorities.
Wayne said he was also aware of negative statements made against his father due to him being politically conservative. He insisted John’s beliefs have been misunderstood over the years
“He wanted to work with people who earned their place,” Wayne explained. “He didn’t think anybody should get a job because he was a man, because she was a woman, because they were gay, because they were straight, because they were Chinese, African-American or Mexican. He thought you should get a job because you were the right person to do that job. Because you had skill and talent and you would show up and get the job done. He didn’t care what you were.
“Somebody, a Latina representative up in Sacramento, shot down a bill for John Wayne Day because he was racist. [But] he was married to three Latin women. It’s just crazy how things get blown out of proportion because he was really an open, caring, loyal, supportive man.”
Wayne hopes his father will be remembered for what he was — an artist.
“People look at him and they think one thing or another, but he was out there representing real people,” said Wayne. “Whether they were guys who came out here and lived in the West or went to war. He played those characters. He represented them. And they liked him. They still do.”

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John Wayne’s Son Couldn’t Watch 1 of His Dad’s Movies After His Death – My Blog

John Wayne is a legendary actor who successfully personifies Western movies. He has a very loyal fan base, but some of his critics claim that he plays the same character in every movie. However, Wayne delivered several nuanced performances over the course of his career. His son, Patrick, had difficulty watching one specific movie after his father’s death.

John Wayne starred in over 160 full-length movies
Wayne entered the entertainment industry working as an extra, prop man, and a stuntman. He primarily worked for Fox Film Corporation, but ultimately got his first shot with Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail. However, the film was a box office failure. Fortunately, Wayne’s huge success at the movies would later come to be.
Wayne ultimately starred in popular Western and war movies over the course of the 1940s onward. Some of his most notable performances include titles such as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, True Grit, and Sands of Iwo Jima. All together, Wayne starred in over 160 full-length movies over the course of his extensive career.

John Wayne’s son, Patrick, couldn’t watch ‘The Shootist’ after his dad’s death

Jeremy Roberts interviewed Patrick via Medium to talk about what it was like growing up in the Wayne family. He talked about some personal stories involving his father, as well as the collection of Wayne movies. The interviewer asked him if he had any difficulty revisiting any of his dad’s movies after his death.
“I’d have to say no to that question with the exception of one film, The Shootist,” Patrick said. “I couldn’t watch that Western as it was so close to reality. He played an old gunfighter who was an anachronism dying of cancer.”
Wayne plays J.B. Books in The Shootist, who is an aging gunfighter diagnosed with cancer. He heads into Nevada at the turn of the 20th century. Books rents a room from a widowed woman named Bond Rogers (Lauren Becall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). When people pursue Books with questionable motives, he decides that he isn’t going to die a silent death.
Patrick continued: “Too many of the elements in there were just too close to what actually happened to him in his real life, so that film took me about 10 years to watch again [of course I saw it when it was originally released in 1976].”
Patrick Wayne thinks ‘The Shootist’ is his dad’s ‘finest performance’

Wayne earned Oscar nominations for his movies Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, he wouldn’t take home the gold statue until his work on True Grit. Patrick believes that the iconic film isn’t quite his father’s best work. He gives that title to Wayne’s work in The Shootist, which he didn’t even earn an Oscar nomination for.
Patrick said, “When I did finally watch it for the second time, I have to say that it’s probably his finest performance as a pure actor, using all his skills and being more than just a cardboard cutout, but more of a real human being — a vulnerable human being — and I think he pulled it off really well.”

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