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The 27 Best John Wayne Films, Ranked – Part 2 – My Blog

15. The SearchersWarner Bros.I should get the other controversy out of the way. “The Searchers” is to John Ford what “Rio Bravo” is to Howard Hawks. It is a vaunted masterpiece that’s hailed by some as not only the best film of John Wayne’s career, but also the greatest example of the western genre (via AFI). Now, I like to go with the grain. I like to be engrossed by a film and connect with those who feel the same way, but “The Searchers” is another film that, while interesting, is less than the sum of its reputation.Still, whatever you think of it, “The Searchers” is not just another mid-century western. The immediate distinction is Winton C. Hoch’s painterly cinematography; the image of Wayne framed by the cabin doorway is the definitive moment of the actor’s career. But what really elevates the film for many is the moral ambiguity of Ethan Edwards, John Wayne’s darkest character.Prickly, spiteful, and bigoted, Edwards personifies the film’s vision of the frontier, a place where conflict is not a matter of good and evil but a painful cycle of death and enmity. However, the word “idea” is salient, for while “The Searchers” is dark in theme, it’s not dark in execution. It’s dated PG fare that’s toothless by comparison to “The Wild Bunch,” “Soldier Blue,” and numerous other revisionist westerns.14. How the West Was WonWarner Brothers/MGMBy the end of the 1950s, cinema was in trouble. Television had eroded the studios’ monopoly on visual entertainment and executives were scrambling to find an edge. Their solution was to tell big stories on a huge, sweeping scale, resulting in a wave of epics such as “Ben Hur,” “Spartacus,” and “How the West was Won,” the first narrative feature film to be presented on a curved Cinerama screen (via Britannica).“How the West Was Won” followed a similar format to “The Longest Day,” released just under a month prior on October 4, 1962. Both films employed three directors, with “West” boasting the strongest line-up: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall. The national origin story is told in five chapters: “The Rivers,” “The Plains,” “The Civil War,” “The Railroad,” and “The Outlaws.” John Wayne appears as General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War section, delivering another of his gruff military performances.“How the West Was Won” is the proverbial ensemble epic, so Wayne isn’t afforded his usual star vehicle antics. However, the film is still an interesting piece of Hollywood mythmaking with gorgeous Technicolor visuals and a broadside of American A-list talent.13. She Wore a Yellow RibbonRKO Radio Pictures“She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” is a building block in the legacies of John Wayne and John Ford, mostly because of the scenery, which was captured on the Arizona-Utah border. It wasn’t the first time that Ford had shot a film in Monument Valley, but it was the first time that he took cinematographer Winton C. Hoch to the awesome sandstone buttes. Hoch captures the landscape’s sweeping vistas at all times of day, with the most arresting imagery coming at dusk, when the sky turns mauve and is streaked by an awesome yellow haze.Hoch’s camerawork made a big impression on the western genre, but “Yellow Ribbon” was also a personal, important film for John Wayne. Like in “Red River” the year before, Wayne played a character some 20 years his senior, which required him to depict all the complexities and vulnerabilities that come with that. The Duke called his work as Captain Brittles “the best acting job I’ve done … It’s about the only picture I’ve been in where I could play a character that was a little apart from the image that has developed for me over the years on the screen” (via John Wayne: The Life and Legend).12. Red RiverUnited Artists“Red River” is something of a watershed moment in Wayne’s career. The actor had spent the nine years since “Stagecoach,” his star-making film, building the robust but easygoing persona that he’d use for the rest of his career. However, the character of Thomas Dunson introduced viewers to a new, darker John Wayne performance.Dunson isn’t an amiable gunslinger, but rather a rancher who manages his vast livestock with all the merciless ambition of John Dutton, the gruff patriarch of “Yellowstone.” Dunson lives with his herd near the Rio Grande, at the southern end of the Chisholm Trail. He figures that if he is to get the best price for his herd, he must lead a huge cattle drive along the trail to Missouri, no matter how arduous.Numerous people suffer Dunson’s wrath on this journey, especially his adopted son, Matt (Montgomery Clift). It was the first time that Clift took his method acting from Broadway to the big screen, where it proved a sensitive counterweight to Wayne’s bullying antagonist (via TCM).11. The Quiet ManRepublic PicturesIn “The Quiet Man,” John Wayne plays neither a cowboy nor a soldier. He instead appears as a retired boxer named Sean Thornton, who’s returning home from Pittsburgh to Inisfree on the rugged west coast of Ireland.Set in the 1920s, the film depicts Ireland as a lush land of rolling hills, stone bridges, and cheerful locals — cheerful apart from Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), that is. Danaher resents Sean’s intention to buy old Thornton land, but the real trouble arises when Sean falls for Danaher’s sister, Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara).“The Quiet Man” was the second of John Wayne’s films with Maureen O’Hara, a lifelong friend. Their chemistry is what makes “The Quiet Man” such an enduring classic, placing a weepy heart at the center of all the verdant beauty.“Enduring” is not just an empty word; “The Quiet Man” made a lasting impact on the Irish village of Cong, where the film was shot. A lovely stone bridge that appears in the film is known today as “The Quiet Man Bridge,” and the village center has a statue and a museum dedicated to preserving the film’s memory (via Irish Post).10. The CowboysUnited Archives/Getty ImagesA highlight of Wayne’s later years, “The Cowboys” features the Duke at his most softly patriarchal. That’s because he’s responsible for leading a group of teenage boys along a 400 mile cattle drive. No sane man would choose such an endeavor, but it’s the only option available to Wil Andersen (Wayne), whose ranch hands have abandoned him for a gold rush.The notion of “softly patriarchal” is subjective, of course. As viewers of “Hondo” will know, a John Wayne figure will gladly teach a boy to swim by throwing him into a pond. A similar moment occurs in “The Cowboys,” in which Andersen confronts a stuttering boy whose condition endangered a friend stranded in a river. Instead of consoling the child, Andersen accuses him of not trying hard enough to save his friend, which riles the boy to the point of repeatedly insulting Anderson, at which point the stutter stops. It’s an old school moment that a certain kind of father would nod at approvingly.The nodding won’t last for long, though, because after much toil on the long and arduous cattle drive, “The Cowboys” ends in a divisively fatal fashion.9. StagecoachUnited Artists“Stagecoach” is usually cited as the beginning of John Wayne’s canon, but his first leading role was actually in “The Big Trail,” a pre-Code western from 1930. An ambitious and expensive production, “The Big Trail” bombed on release and put its 23-year-old star out to B-movie pasture for much of the decade (via TCM). Director John Ford helped cast Wayne in that doomed picture, and when the script for “Stagecoach” came together, he was adamant that John Wayne be given another chance. “He’ll be the biggest star ever,” Ford observed, “because he is the perfect everyman.”Ford’s instincts were canny. “Stagecoach” brought Wayne to his biggest audience yet, showcasing the easy machismo he’d developed in the cinematic wilderness. The director also proved his own talents, capturing big characters and even bigger scenery in what became one of the most influential films of all time. Orson Welles said he watched the film 40 times in preparation for “Citizen Kane” (via Irish Film Institute).8. Fort ApacheUnited Archives/Getty ImagesJohn Wayne is usually the master of his domain; he calls the shots and controls the environment. However, that is not true of “Fort Apache,” the first film in John Ford’s “cavalry trilogy.” Here, Wayne plays Captain Kirby York, a civil war veteran who is strong, flexible, and yet subordinate to Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda), a patrician West Point graduate.Thursday is chosen to lead the western outpost of Fort Apache, which is a job that requires tactful diplomacy with local Native Americans. However, the lieutenant colonel is ignorant of their customs and rejects any notion of co-operation. Instead, he rules the fort with dogmatic arrogance, leading the regiment into violent conflict with the Apache tribe. York butts heads with Thursday at every turn, but there is no overruling him. Thursday’s Custer syndrome can end only one way, and it isn’t pretty.“Fort Apache” was novel for its time because it depicted Native Americans with nuance and empathy. We see the Apache not as villains but a community capable of reason and compromise, unlike Lieutenant Colonel Thursday.7. The Longest Day20th Century FoxJohn Wayne is the first big actor to appear in “The Longest Day,” a sweeping account of the D-Day invasion. The film may have a bleak docudrama style with an ostensible focus on historical accuracy, but it doesn’t skimp on star power. The ensemble cast of “42 international stars” includes everyone from Richard Burton and Sean Connery to Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, and Henry Fonda.Wayne drops his breezy charm to play Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort, delivering one of his more hard-edged performances. It’s an appropriate choice, given the subject matter, but Wayne was perhaps overly serious when it came to the Second World War. For instance, when Steven Spielberg sent Wayne the script for his war comedy “1941,” the aging star described it as “un-American” and telephoned the director to say, “Don’t joke about World War II” (via Contact Music).There are few laughs in “The Longest Day.” The battle sequences may lack the bloody mayhem of “Saving Private Ryan,” but the film still captures the terrible waste of war. There’s no doubting the epic’s sheer scale, either. Hordes of actors and extras storm the screen, captured overhead by some of the finest aerial photography of the period.6. El DoradoUnited Archives/Getty Images“El Dorado” is so similar to “Rio Bravo” that it’s effectively a remake. However, it is an exception to the rule that all remakes are inadequate by being superior in casting, combat, and story detail.First, there’s the intriguing pairing of John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. They had both appeared in “The Longest Day,” but “El Dorado” was the only time the two Golden Era men shared the screen. Mitchum opens the film as Sheriff J.P. Harrah, who paces across the screen with a badge and broad shoulders. This doesn’t last, though. Harrah is the Dude character from “Rio Bravo,” so the demon liquor is waiting for him. Compared to Dean Martin, Mitchum is more anguished, although there is no rendition of “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me” here.Washed up though he may be, Harrah has a job to do when gunslinger Cole Thornton (Wayne) returns to El Dorado. Together, they must protect an upstanding family against a greedy landowner with designs on their ranch and their water supply. Assisting them is Mississippi (James Caan), an incendiary young man who’s good with a knife but can’t shoot a bullet into the proverbial broad side of a barn.I’m not sure why Howard Hawks made “El Dorado.” It is a rehash of a film that wasn’t even 10 years old. But I’m glad he did, because it makes up for a celebrated classic that left me cold.5. Baby FaceWarner Brothers/YouTube“Baby Face” is a timeless commentary on sexuality, ambition, and greed. It also features a terrific performance from Barbara Stanwyck, who avoids the stagey manner that dates even the best films of classic Hollywood.Lily Powers is the titular “baby face,” which is a pet name given to her by Jimmy McCoy, played by a 25-year-old John Wayne. McCoy is Lily’s latest conquest and one of the more disposable ones, as he doesn’t have the means to support her grandiose ambitions in reaching all the avarice New York City has to offer.Her quest begins in a ramshackle speakeasy in Erie, Pennsylvania. She sits idly in this industrial milieu, barked at by her abusive father, who “offers” her to a local politician to avoid getting busted by prohibition agents. Lily knows how to stand up for herself, but the young woman remains adrift until Adolf, an eccentric cobbler, introduces her to Nietzsche’s “will to power” philosophy. This awakens Lily’s sexuality, which becomes a tool of manipulation and then outright Machiavellianism, leaving a trail of wrecked marriages and broken hearts in its wake.4. Hatari!United Archives/Getty Images“Rio Bravo” is the celebrated hang out film of John Wayne’s career, but who would want to hang out in the Old West? Me, actually. But first I’d visit the characters of “Hatari!” for drinks, dinner, and fun in 1960s Tanganyika (present day Tanzania).Wayne stars as Sean Mercer, a tough but amiable outdoorsman who must lead a crew of big game catchers. His team includes Kurt (Hardy Krüger), a German race car driver; Pockets (Red Buttons), a sprightly New York cabbie; and Dallas (Elsa Martinelli), an Italian photographer. The characters share a whimsical chemistry as they joke, flirt, eat, and care for the compound’s exotic animals. You may not have seen “Hatari!,” but you’ll recognize Henry Mancini’s score during the cheeky elephant sequence, which typifies the film’s balmy escapism.It’s not all R&R, though. The film is punctuated by a series of hunt scenes in which the actors use trucks, lassos, and cages to capture a range of wild animals including zebras, giraffes, leopards, buffalo, and even a rhinoceros. The methods seem antiquated by contemporary standards, but “Hatari!” is less questionable than other films from the period, like Jacques Cousteau’s documentary “The Silent World,” in which the famed oceanographer detonates reefs, slaughters sharks, and attacks sperm whales with the bow of his ship.3. True GritParamount PicturesThe film that won John Wayne the Oscar, “True Grit” is effectively a buddy film that pairs Rooster Cogburn (Wayne), a lumbering 6′ 4″ drunkard, with Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), a crusading teenager full of earnest resolve.Their paths cross following the death of Mattie’s father, Frank (John Pickard), who’s shot dead by family acquaintance Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). Dissatisfied by the sheriff’s inaction, Mattie meets with Cogburn because he is said to have “true grit,” which she believes to be a necessity for catching a villain like Chaney.What follows is a power struggle between Mattie, Cogburn, and a Texas ranger named La Boeuf (Glen Campbell). This isn’t all conflict and survivalism, though. Mattie may be half an orphan, but “True Grit” is fairly light in tone. Its 128 minutes breeze by thanks to the leads’ charisma, the cat-and-mouse plotting, and the awesome Rocky Mountain adventurism. Glen Campbell’s single is a delight, too.2. The ShootistParamount PicturesThe Duke’s last film is also one of his best. In “The Shootist,” Wayne plays J.B. Books, a gunfighter who, upon his arrival in Carson City, Nevada, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The diagnosis is given by Dr. Hostetler (James Stewart), an old friend of Books who speaks frankly about the pain of Book’s condition and concludes one of their meetings with a bleak suggestion: “I would not die a death like I just described … not if I had your courage.”J.B. Books breaks no new ground for Wayne, but he brings the best of his grit and chivalry to the role, and it works well against Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall), a matronly boarding house owner who hosts Books with icy reluctance. However, it is real world circumstances that really gives “The Shootist” its poignant, funeral pathos.In 1964, John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. He would be given the all clear, but only after losing much of his left lung (via New York Times). Wayne kept busy through the 1960s and into the new decade, but ill health loomed over the actor’s psyche. “I have cancer,” Wayne told his son Patrick during a bout of stomach pain. “I’ve had cancer before and I know how it feels and I have it now.” In January 1979, the Duke was diagnosed with stomach cancer during gallbladder surgery. He died six months later.1. The Man Who Shot Liberty ValanceParamount/YouTubeMany point to “The Searchers” as the greatest collaboration between John Ford and John Wayne, but for me it’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” a story of violence and justice on the American frontier.All developed governments have a monopoly on violence. Citizens grant this monopoly in return for safety and security. But how often does this arrangement fail us? How often does it enable those who may do us harm? The residents of Shinbone ask these questions as the harbingers of progress reach their town in the early 20th century, the most notable of which is Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), a high-minded senator who speaks stridently about the rule of law. His earnest rhetoric may work on Capitol Hill, but it doesn’t impress the people of Shinbone too much, especially Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), the town’s worst outlaw.Marvin is brilliant in the role. Far from being a cackling stock character, Liberty Valance is a thoroughly hateful man. If he’s not committing outright violence, he behaves like a playground bully. But Valance doesn’t have free rein in Shinbone; he’s stopped short by Tom Doniphon, performed by a career-best John Wayne.Swaggering and violent but not unfair, Doniphon is precisely the figure you want in the absence of government authority. But is his violence preferable to Stoddard’s careerism and bureaucracy? At what point does the law stop and murky pragmatism begin? These are the compelling themes of this premier American western.Read More:

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Rin Tin Tin

When I was very young, my grandfather kept a Rin Tin Tin figurine sitting on his desk. I wanted desperately to play with it, and even more desperately I wanted to have a German shepherd dog of my own, a dog just like the star of “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin”, which debuted on television in 1954. I knew nothing about Rin Tin Tin other than that he was the perfect dog, and that he was a character on television.

When by chance I learned that Rin Tin Tin was a real dog, not just a television character—a real dog with a real life that was extraordinary—I was drawn into the story and eventually to the idea of writing this book. After digging through hundreds of pages of archives and files and photographs, I came to understand that this was not just a story about a dog, or even the many different dogs who make up the Rin Tin Tin legacy; this is a story about a beloved icon who has played a role in decades of American popular culture.

“‘He believed the dog was immortal.’ So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving story of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. From the moment in 1918 when Corporal Lee Duncan discovers Rin Tin Tin on a World War I battlefield, he recognizes something in the pup that he needs to share with the world. Rin Tin Tin’s improbable introduction to Hollywood leads to the dog’s first blockbuster film and over time, the many radio programs, movies, and television shows that follow. The canine hero’s legacy is cemented by Duncan and a small group of others who devote their lives to keeping him and his descendants alive.

“At its heart, Rin Tin Tin is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. But it is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship and the changing role of dogs in the American family and society. Almost ten years in the making, Susan Orlean’s first original book since The Orchid Thief is a tour de force of history, human interest, and masterful storytelling—the ultimate must—read for anyone who loves great dogs or great yarns.”

Publishers Weekly
“Stirring … A tale of passion and dedication overcoming adversity … Even readers coming to Rin Tin Tin for the first time will find it difficult to refrain from joining Duncan in his hope that Rin Tin Tin’s legacy will ‘go on forever.’”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Orlean] combines all her skills and passions in this astonishing story … A terrific dog’s tale that will make readers sit up and beg for more.”

Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin and Einstein

“Rin Tin Tin was more than a dog. He embodied the core paradoxes of the American ideal: He was a loner who was also a faithful companion, a brave fighter who was also vulnerable. I was astonished to learn from this delightful book that he has existed for eleven generations over a century. By chronicling his amazing ups and downs, Susan Orlean has produced a hugely entertaining and unforgettable reading experience.”

Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto
“Not only does Susan Orlean give us a fascinating and big-hearted account of all the many incarnations of Rin Tin Tin, she shows us the ever-changing role of American dogs in times of war and peace. This book is for anyone who has ever had a dog or loved a dog or watched a dog on television or thought their dog could be a movie star. In short— everyone.”

Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“I adored this book. It weaves history, war, show business, humanity, wit, and grace into an incredible story about America, the human-animal bond, and the countless ways we would be lost without dogs by our sides, on our screens, and in our books. This is the story Susan Orlean was born to tell—it’s filled with amazing characters, reporting, and writing.”

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John Wayne ‘punished’ The Longest Day producer for publicly insulting him – My Blog

John Wayne was famous for his tough guy image on and off screen, mostly being known for playing cowboys and military men.By the early 1960s, Duke was in his fifties, struggling with health problems yet continuing to insist on not only doing his own stunts but also playing characters – including historical figures – he was now much older than.

This was especially the case when he was cast in the 1962 D-Day epic The Longest Day, which was released 61 years ago this week.The World War II film featured an incredible all-star cast including Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery and Richard Burton. Yet Wayne’s inclusion proved divisive.Incredibly, former President Dwight D Eisenhower almost played himself, but makeup artists couldn’t make him look as young as he did in 1944. Nevertheless, a set decorator with no acting experience with the spitting image of the Supreme Allied Commander was cast.Awkwardly, the real Ike ended up walking out of The Longest Day after just a few minutes, frustrated with all the inaccuracies. Although Eisenhower was considered too old to play his younger self, that didn’t stop Wayne from being cast as 27-year-old Lt Col Benjamin Vandervoort, who was very disappointed to find out he was being portrayed by the overweight 54-year-old Duke.Originally Charlton Heston, who was only a decade older than the real-life paratrooper, had actively sought the part. However, Wayne’s last-minute decision to take on the role blocked him and it came at a huge price to the film’s producer.The Longest Day producer Darryl F Zanuck had managed to negotiate $25,000 fees from his ensemble cast for what was mostly cameos. However, Wayne demanded $250,000 or he’d refused to appear in the movie – a request that was granted.The reason Duke “punished” the producer with this action was because he’d been quoting in an interview calling the Western legend “poor John Wayne” over 1960’s The Alamo.

That blockbuster was produced, directed and largely funded by the star himself. And Zanuck had said he didn’t think much of actors forming their own production companies, citing Wayne’s as an example. Not only was Wayne’s non-negotiable fee request on The Longest Day an act of revenge, but also was a way of him getting a quick payday after all the money he spent on The Alamo.

Aside from being three decades too old for his role in the World War II blockbuster, Duke’s contract also included a clause that made his casting even more controversial.Alongside his whopping $250,000 fee, Wayne insisted on getting separate billing on The Longest Day from the other actors. However, to his dismay, this was got around by having the other stars billed first followed by “and John Wayne”, meaning that Duke’s name appeared last on the credits.Even so, it was highly controversial even then as the Hollywood star did not serve in World War II, something he tried to redeem across his career by acting in very patriotic movies.

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Injured John Wayne struggled to breathe with oxygen mask on movie with Katharine Hepburn – My Blog

After winning the Best Actor Oscar for 1969’s True Grit, John Wayne returned for a sequel with 1975’s Rooster Cogburn – which celebrates its 48th anniversary this week – alongside Katharine Hepburn.However, Duke had serious health issues going back to when he had a cancerous lung removed a decade prior.Earlier in 1974, Wayne headed to London to shoot cop movie Brannigan, but had a severe bout of pneumonia and was diagnosed with heart problems before production began.During filming, Duke met Hepburn who, despite being just two weeks older than him, had never met the Western star let alone starred in a movie with him. She had been filming 1975’s Love Among the Ruins with Sir Laurence Olivier and despite their political differences greatly admired Wayne.The two stars agreed to make True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn together later that year, although like Brannigan it would not be an easy production.Alongside pneumonia, Wayne had coughed so hard at one point that he damaged a valve in his heart, an issue that wouldn’t be diagnosed until 1978, a year before he died of cancer.Rooster Cogburn’s filming took place in Oregon and Duke had to rely on his oxygen mask for high altitudes, something he tried to keep hidden from the public. In fact, on another movie, he screamed at a photographer and demanded the film that captured the truth of his ailments; desperate to maintain his macho image.If this wasn’t bad enough, the 67-year-old injured himself on the Rooster Cogburn set while teaching his eight-year-old daughter to play golf. But lucky for him, his character’s eye patch covered the mark.rooster cogburn posterRooster Cogburn poster (Image: GETTY)Dealing with all these physical problems took a toll on Wayne’s patience and he would become seriously frustrated with Rooster Cogburn director Stuart Miller’s insistence on doing multiple takes. In one outburst, Duke ranted: “God damn it Stuart, there’s only so many times we can say these awful lines before they stop making any sense at all.”His co-star Hepburn, who largely respected the actor most of the time, would become bemused by his argumentative nature on set and told him at the wrap party: “I’m glad I didn’t know you when you had two lungs, you must have been a real b*****d. Losing a hip has mellowed me, but you!”

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