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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Attempt To Break Out Of Westerns Led To One Of The Lowest Points In His Career

In the early days of the classical Hollywood era, the demand for new movies was so great that studios created low-budget production wings (known as B-units) to cheaply meet the demand for content. Smaller studios — known as Poverty Row — filled the remaining gap with quickly produced cheap movies. The practice resulted in what’s best known as the low-budget B-movie.
Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and Ron Howard all have humble beginnings in B-movies, as do actors like Robert De Niro, Sandra Bullock, and Jack Nicholson. Legendary Western icon John Wayne is no different.
The Duke spent a decade toiling away on Poverty Row before becoming a bonafide leading man in John Ford’s 1939 Western “Stagecoach.” It was during these B-movie days that Wayne became synonymous with Westerns, but he wanted more.
Wayne took a big gamble to break away from the genre. It was a move that almost cost The Duke his career.
‘I lost my stature as a Western star. I got nothing in return.’Republic PicturesThroughout the 1930s, John Wayne starred in more than two dozen Westerns, many for the Poverty Row studio Republic Pictures. By the mid-30s, Wayne was primed for a breakout but was also at a crossroads in his career.
The actor was eager to make a break from Poverty Row and Westerns, and he thought he found a way to do that through former Republic Pictures producer, Trem Carr. In “Shooting Star: A Biography of John Wayne,” author Maurice Zolotow explained how Carr’s promotion to executive producer at Universal Pictures coaxed The Duke from Republic. He wrote:
“[Carr] invited Duke to rise to better things. He promised to take John Wayne out of Levi’s; he could unstrap his holster forever. He would never have to mount another horse unless he wanted to go riding in Griffith Park. Trem Carr always believed that Wayne was a distinguished movie actor of potential greatness. Wayne heard the siren song. Between April 1936, and May 1937, Wayne performed in six Trem Carr productions for Universal.”
But the gamble following Carr to Universal almost cost the actor his career. “I lost my stature as a Western star,” Wayne said. “I got nothing in return.”
With a rising star like Wayne primed for a breakout, it begs the question: What went wrong with his attempted break from Westerns?
He was still stuck making B-movies
Universal Pictures

It’s likely Trem Carr neglected to tell John Wayne that he would be starring in low-budget movies for Universal, just like his films at Republic. Nevertheless, Wayne achieved his goal of branching out from Westerns, playing meatier roles like a coast guard commander (“The Sea Spoilers”), a Pacific pearl diver (“Adventure’s End”), and a wartime news photographer (“I Cover the War!”). However, those same films were critically panned and bombed at the box office.
Wayne believed the issue had less to do with him branching out from the Western genre and more to do with the studio. “I made a big mistake. Not because they weren’t Westerns, but because they were cheap pictures,” Wayne said. “Trem Carr was trying to make them on a budget of about $75,000. He was cutting costs and production values as if he were still making Republic cheapies.”
Universal’s attempt to pit low-budget movies with a rising star against big productions from 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. failed. The damage was almost irreparable. Wayne explained:
“In six months exhibitors wouldn’t touch a John Wayne [movie] with a 10-foot pole. I said adios to Trem Carr and I tried freelancing and about the best I could get was a [B-movie] at Paramount, a cattle drive, trek type of picture, terrible. Almost as bad as those Trem Carr specials.”
The fiasco painted a rare picture of John Wayne, defeated and desperate for work in Hollywood. Then John Ford rode in to save the day.
‘I just had to come crawlin’ back’
United ArtistsThe string of box office failures made it hard for John Wayne to find work in Hollywood. It was one of the lowest points of his career.
“Finally I just had to come crawlin’ back to [Republic Pictures president] Herbert Yates and beg for mercy,” Wayne recalled. “I didn’t want to make these cheapies for Republic, but seemed like there was nothin’ else to do.”
Wayne was hoping to play his idol, Sam Houston, in the upcoming large-budget production “Man of Conquest.” Republic told the actor he wasn’t big enough of a box office draw for the role (it went to Richard Dix). It left Wayne feeling pigeonholed. Zolotow wrote:
“Duke felt he was condemned to be just a ‘cheapie’ actor in ‘cheapie’ B’s. […] He made eight ‘Mesquiteers’ for Republic. They were the dreariest films he made in this decade. Shot in five days, they looked as if they had been made in one morning. They were slapped together with absurd dialogue and a paucity of action stunts.”
Director John Ford, who advised Wayne against signing long-term with Republic, fought for the actor to star in his upcoming Western “Stagecoach.” The film revitalized Wayne’s career and is considered one of the most influential Westerns of all time. Not bad for a defeated hero who had to “come crawlin’ back” to the business.
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John Wayne

John Wayne heartbreak after pleading for one last film before death: ‘Hope to hell I do’

The crowning moment in his acting life came in 1970, when he earned his only Academy Award for Best Actor, as a result of his role in True Grit.

But one project that sadly never made it to life was Beau John, a film Wayne hoped would be his last.
Author Scott Eyman, who wrote ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’, discussed what Wayne wanted the project to be like, as well as the confession he made before he sadly passed away.
Eyman noted that Wayne’s wish was made at the end of 1978, just under a year before the western icon died in June.

Wayne reportedly felt directionless without any film work as he’d spent the last years in recovery with health issues as opposed to being behind the camera.
That year, Wayne received the Utah Film Festival’s John Ford Medallion, though he was unable to travel due to his health.
Instead, friend and director Peter Bogdanovich went to accept the award on his behalf, and when the pair were reunited Wayne asked if he’d consider the film he proposed.
Bogdanovich said: “It’s kind of a half-western thing, it’s not cowboys and Indians, you know, it’s — oh, the humour and the wonderful relationship between this grandfather and the son and the son-in-law and the grandson.
JUST IN: John Wayne was buried at unmarked grave with a beautiful message

“Wayne said, ‘I hope to hell I live to do it. Just a wonderful story’.”
His friend reassured Wayne he’d do the project, were he alive long enough to commit to it, and in his later life it became the Oscar winner’s main focus in life.
As he grew even more ill, Wayne then proposed the project to director Ron Howard, though he didn’t want anyone but the dying star to be in it.
According to the book, Wayne told Howard: “I found a book. I think it’s a movie. It’s you and me or it’s nobody.”

John Wayne died in 1979

John Wayne died in 1979 (Image: GETTY)

But sadly for Wayne, he died before anything could be done to start the movie.
Howard added: “It never got past the verbal stage.
“And at that point, he was showing signs of not being well. I was a little doubtful.”
Wayne passed away in 1979 as a result of stomach cancer, and was buried in the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach.
His legacy was secured when the American Film Institute chose him as one of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema.

He was among a select group of stars who managed to negotiate their way from the silent film era of the Twenties, into the talkies that followed.
He had seven children in total, and was married three times.

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John Wayne

John Wayne battled crippling injuries and heartbreaking loss on Rio Lobo set

The sight of The Duke thundering across The West on horseback remains one of cinema’s most indelible images.
Meanwhile, “Get off your horse and drink your milk” has frequently been attributed as one of John Wayne’s most famous ‘quotes.’

Despite some claims that it came from an advert he shot, it is actually almost certainly an urban myth, most likely started by comedians doing drawling impressions of the Hollywood Westerns legend.
Sadly, though, by the time the star came to film 1970’s Rio Lobo (a blatant remake of Rio Bravo) towards the end of his career, he was in so much pain struggled to get on and off his horse.
In fact, the entire film shoot was surrounded by personal tragedies for the actor.
DON’T MISSJohn Wayne revealed his own three favourite films from his career

John Wayne on horseback in Rio Lobo

John Wayne on horseback in Rio Lobo (Image: GETTY)

John Wayne starred in Rio Lobo
John Wayne was in agony in Rio Lobo (Image: GETTY )

It was director Howard Hawks’ final film and the third film he made with John Wayne about a beleaguered sheriff standing against outlaws.
In a 1971 interview Hawks said of Rio Lobo: “The last picture we made, I called him up and said, ‘Duke, I’ve got a story.’ He said, ‘I can’t make it for a year, I’m all tied up.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s all right, it’ll take me a year to get it finished.’
“He said, ‘Good, I’ll be all ready.’ And he came down on location and he said, ‘What’s this about?’ And I told him the story. He never even read it, he didn’t know anything about it.”

Famously, when Wayne realised it was a remake of Rio Bravo and El Dorado, he quipped: “Yes, he said, ‘Do I get to play the drunk this time?”

Hawks was less jocular after the film bombed and blamed it on 63-year-old Wayne being too old and out of shape for the role.
Critics and audiences agreed and the film took just over $4million against a production budget of $6million plus all the extra promotional costs which are often the same again.
Wayne’s physical difficulties were not due to his age, however. He had piled on weight for 1969’s True Grit and then while filming The Undefeated the same year, The Duke fell from his horse and fractured three ribs, leaving him unable to work for two weeks.
Later in the shoot, he tore a ligament in his shoulder. With no movement in one arm, he had to be filmed only from the other side.

John Wayne with a rifle in Rio Lobo
John Wayne with a rifle in Rio Lobo (Image: GETTY)

Wayne came into Rio Lobo in considerable pain, out of shape from True Grit and still suffering from a torn shoulder.
Most of his fight scenes had to be filmed with stand-ins or carefully from restricted angles. Some fights even happened off-camera. And he struggled greatly getting on and off his horse.
He also suffered two devastatimg personal blow when his mother died during filming and then his younger brother Robert E. Morrison lost his battle with lung cancer the month after filming ended.
But there was one shining moment of happiness also.

John Wayne in True Grit
John Wayne in True Grit (Image: GETTY)

Always a dedicated workhorse on set, no matter the physical injuries or personal pains, Wayne took a rare break from filming.
He had a very good reason, since it was to attend the 1970 Academy Awards. After exactly 40 years on screen, The Duke finally won the Best Actor Oscar for True Grit.
Touchingly, when he returned to the Rio Lobo set, he was greeted by the cast and crew all wearing eye patches like True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn.

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John Wayne

Ann-Margret recalls ‘gentle’ and ‘welcoming’ John Wayne who did her a big favour

Legendary actress Ann-Margret turns 80-years-old today on April 28, 2021. The singer, dancer and performer made quite the name for herself in Hollywood in a number of films during the early 1960s, including Bye Bye Birdie and State Fair. She is perhaps best known for her epic performance in 1964 hit Viva Las Vegas alongside Elvis Presley, with whom she shared a passionate love affair. Shortly after working with the King, she joined wild west star John Wayne in his 1973 movie The Train Robbers.

Ann-Margret played the lead in the movie – one of her first lead roles – Mrs Lowe.

The story followed her character after her husband had been killed, leaving her half-million dollars.
Mr Lowe had acquired this money from robbing banks in the wild west, however, she was keen to return it to the government to clear her name. John’s character, Lane, had different ideas. He wanted her to help find the money and claim a reward for it.
Ann-Margret recently gave an interview about her time on the silver screen, where she touched upon working with the legendary John.

Ann-Margret continued: “He was so great with my parents. So absolutely welcoming and gentle with them. And anybody who was great to my parents was on a throne in my eyes.
“I was friends with him forever. He was never [pretentious]. He had so many friends and every single person loved him.”
Ann-Margret also previously praised John for doing her an enormous favour in her time of need.
During the filming of The Train Robbers, Ann-Margret was up for an Oscar alongside her co-star Ben Johnson.
However, considering Ann-Margret was filming in Mexico she was struggling to find a way to attend the ceremony.
Without a second thought, John gave her and Ben his own private plane to allow them both to attend the ceremony.
Ann-Margret said later: “The next day, we were back on the set, and Ben had won and I hadn’t.
“I don’t know what Mr Wayne said to Ben, but he got me in a corner, and he just said some wonderful things to me.”
Ann-Margret also spoke candidly about her relationship with Elvis.
The pair enjoyed a relationship together for just over a year while filming Viva Las Vegas.

Speaking in the same interview, Ann-Margret said: “Just thinking about Viva Las Vegas, or anytime someone mentions it, I smile.
“It was one of the happiest times of my life. George Sidney, who directed Bye Bye Birdie also directed Viva Las Vegas. And believe it or not, I had never seen [Elvis] perform.”

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