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John Wayne

The Man Who Dared to Fill John Wayne’s Boots

The lanky, long-faced Mr. Cord actually bears a closer resemblance to Tom Tyler, who played the Ringo Kid’s gun-slinging nemesis, Luke Plummer, in the John Ford film, than he does to the towering, barrel-chested Wayne. Under Douglas’s direction, Mr. Cord creates a less charismatic but more approachable Ringo.
In the original film, Ford introduces Wayne with a highly uncharacteristic visual flourish: the camera darts toward Wayne in a rapid dolly shot, as the actor, standing in front of what appears to be a projected background, twirls his rifle in a grand, theatrical gesture. The shot briefly goes out of focus as Ford’s cinematographer, Bert Glennon, struggles to keep up with the change in scale — an effect that may have been accidental, but which grants Wayne an almost supernatural aura, as his face emerges from the blur to fill the screen in a dominating close-up.
This is mythmaking, pure and simple. Douglas, by contrast, discovers Mr. Cord’s Ringo sitting by the side of the road, in a roomy, wide-screen composition that fully integrates the actor with natural environment. In the background, a rushing waterfall imparts some of its strength and wonder to the character, but Douglas soon moves to a higher angle that eliminates the waterfall from the image, and actually seems to diminish Ringo’s stature by looking down on him, hemmed in by a cluster of trees.

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There’s no Homeric apotheosis here, just a frank appraisal of a man who lives within the limits of the natural world. The comparison illuminates the difference between two films and two filmmakers working from what is essentially the same script (although the rewrite, by Joseph Landon, expands some scenes and eliminates others, large passages of Dudley Nichols’s original dialogue are recycled).
While Ford was indisputably the greater artist, Douglas has put his finger on one of the weaknesses of “Stagecoach”: Ford’s determination to make a sort of meta-western, a film that deals in archetypes rather than individuals, and epic themes rather than genre conventions. With “Stagecoach,” Ford’s return to the genre after 13 years of more “prestigious” material, the western achieves self-consciousness, an awareness of itself as America’s official foundation myth.

Douglas almost literally brings the material back to earth, shifting the action from the black-and-white, lunar landscape of Monument Valley (“Stagecoach” was the first film that Ford shot among its eerie promontories) to the fecund greenery of a Colorado mountain range. Ford, in Andrew Sarris’s famous phrase, keeps his eye on the horizon line of history; Douglas, whose sensibility is at once more pessimistic and humanistic than Ford’s, concentrates on the immediate problems facing the characters in the foreground.

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Mr. Cord with Ann-Margret, his romantic partner in the film.

Mr. Cord with Ann-Margret, his romantic partner in the film.Credit…Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Mr. Cord with Ann-Margret, his romantic partner in the film.

The 1966 “Stagecoach” is an intriguing anticipation of the disaster-film cycle that would begin in earnest with “Airport” in 1970. An all-star cast (for 1966, at least — Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Bing Crosby, Robert Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers) faces an apocalyptic threat (provided in “Stagecoach” by some uncharacterized Indians, the weakest element in both movies) while trapped within a restricted environment, much like the casts of “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno.”
But what at first seems a threat becomes a sort of therapy, as some characters reveal their hidden weaknesses (Cummings’s smiling, sanctimonious banker has a satchel full of stolen cash), others discover their hidden strengths (Crosby’s alcoholic doctor sobers up long enough to deliver a baby), while the frayed social network pulls more tightly together.
The 1970s disaster films would add a theological dimension (remember the inverted Christmas tree in “The Poseidon Adventure”?) that remains quite foreign to Douglas’s pragmatic personality. There is nothing metaphorical or metaphysical about the violence in “Stagecoach,” which retains the shocking, graphic immediacy that Douglas pioneered in films like “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (1950) and “Them!” (1954).
In Ford’s film, the great set piece is the Indian attack on the stagecoach as it crosses an open stretch of desert. Douglas, no doubt wary of trying to surpass one of the most famous sequences in film history, almost throws away the scene. He covers Ford’s epic vistas with a single helicopter shot and quickly moves the chase into a wooded area, where it ends, not with the magnificent sense of release and deliverance of Ford’s film, but in a squalid shootout.
Instead, Douglas concentrates on Ringo’s last-reel showdown with Luke Plummer, a scene played so perfunctorily by Ford that it seems like an anticlimax (though a brilliant one, I think). For Douglas, the darkened western town, with its deserted streets and little pools of light, becomes an urban jungle right out of one of his early films noirs, and Ringo’s confrontation with a vigorously characterized, actively sadistic Plummer (Keenan Wynn) is brutal and personal.
When John Wayne’s Ringo rides off with his newfound love (Claire Trevor, as the “saloon girl” with a heart of gold), Ford seems to imagine them as a new Adam and Eve, whose children will populate an American Eden of freedom and democracy. Alex Cord’s Ringo enjoys a more prosaic fate, but perhaps a less burdensome one: when he rides away with his saloon girl (a young and impossibly lush Ann-Margret), we see a couple of kids escaping an adult world that has become too corrupt and confining for them.
“Stagecoach” did not make Cord a star, but it didn’t destroy him: he moved into Euro-westerns and television (including a long run as a star of the CBS series “Airwolf”) and today raises horses and writes novels. That seems to me a happy ending, too. (Twilight Time, available exclusively through screenarchives.com, $19.95)

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

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