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10 Classic John Wayne Movies That Are Not Westerns

John Wayne is a Hollywood legend who is best known for his iconic Westerns such as The Searchers, True Grit and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. After losing his football scholarship, Wayne started working for 20th Century Fox as a prop boy before his breakthrough role in John Ford‘s Stagecoach. While Wayne may have made his film footprint in the Old West, the Duke starred in a dozen non-Western movies throughout his career that are often overlooked.
Along with his Westerns, Wayne was featured in dozens of war films including The Green Berets as well as romantic comedies and dramas like A Lady Takes a Chance and The Wings of the Eagles.From The Longest Day to Donovan’s Reef,these are several among Wayne’s best classic movies that aren’t Westerns.
‘In Harm’s Way’ (1965)

John Wayne_Carroll O'Connor_Kirk Douglas_In Harm's Way

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Captain Torrey managed to keep his ship afloat, but he’s demoted when his ship is damaged. When he returns to shore, he attempts to reconnect with his estranged son and falls in love with a nurse (Patricia Neal) before he is assigned to a dangerous mission.
Directed by Otto Preminger, In Harm’s Way was one of the last epic World War II movies to be filmed in black-and-white and features a star-studded cast of Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Dana Andrews, Carroll O’Connor and Burgess Meredith.The movie was written by Navy veteran Wendell Mayes and is considered to be an authentic view into the Navy during the war.
‘Back to Bataan’ (1945)

John Wayne looking to the side while sitting next to a man laying down in the grass in Sands of Iwo Jima-1

As the U.S. struggles to defend Bataan against the Japanese, Colonel Madden recruits resistance fighters to help keep a hold of the city. While he’s away, Bataan is captured along with Madden’s men including the grandson of a national war hero, Captain Andrés Bonifacio (Anthony Quinn). Refusing to give up, Madden and the resistance fighters form a plan to save Bonifacio as well as Bataan.
RELATED:The Tragic History Of Lost Films, From A Hitchcock Feature To A John Wayne Western
Back to Bataan is based on the real-life Battle of Bataan and takes place during the most intense phase of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II. According to John Wayne: American by Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, Wayne insisted on doing his own stunts for the movie. One scene involved Wayne entering an icy pond and remaining underwater while using a reed to breathe.
‘Hatari!’ (1962)

John Wayne standing behind the front of a jeep with a young man in Hatari!

Sean Mercer and his men capture wild African animals to sell to American zoos, but the job’s interrupted by a reporter who intends to expose them and their exploits. As they continue to clash with the reporter, her tough and strong will begin to wear them down and even rethink their career choice.
Hatari! is directed by the legendary filmmaker Howard Hawks and is the only non-Western Hawks and Wayne made together. The movie was filmed on location in East Africa and according to The Cinema of Howard Hawks, by Peter Bogdanovich, Hawks had planned on Clark Gable co-starring with Wayne in the movie but Gable’s death in 1960 ruled that option out.
‘They Were Expendable’ (1945)

John Wayne, Geraldine Page and Robert Montgomery sitting next to each other in a jeep inThey Were Expendable

Naval officers, Rusty and Brick (Robert Montgomery) present a group of PT boats to their superior officer who is unimpressed and dismisses them. When they receive word about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rusty and Brick are sent into battle with their PT boats and end up becoming America’s secret weapon.
While the movie’s fictional, They Were Expendable is based on events surrounding a PT boat squadron that defended the Philippines during World War II. The movie is co-directed by John Ford as well as Montgomery and features It’s a Wonderful Life stars, Donna Reed and Ward Bond. Bond and Wayne would work together again several years later on another Ford film, The Searchers.
‘Reap the Wild Wind’ (1942)

Paulette Goddard standing next to John Wayne looking up in Reap the Wild Wind

After a massive shipwreck, Loxi (Paulette Goddard), the owner of a marine salvaging business, and her men race to the wreckage sites to collect the cargo and end up saving one of the ship’s captains, Jack Stuart. After Jack finds a job with another shipping line, rumors surface that his shipwreck was planned by dangerous salvagers.
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Reap the Wild Wind is a romantic adventure with a supporting cast of Ray Milland, Susan Hayward and actor-turned-gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper. The movie’s viewed as one of Wayne’s most unusual roles as he plays a character who has a dark and sinister side to him that audiences rarely see the Duke portray.
‘The Longest Day’ (1962)

John Wayne standing next to another soldier in The Longest Day

U.S. and allied troops are planning to invade Normandy, France and despite bad weather, are given the go-ahead by General Eisenhower. The troops storm the Normandy beach and venture into French territory catching the German troops completely off guard.
The Longest Day is a classic war film about the events leading up to one of the most infamous battles of World War II, D-Day. The cast is packed with stars including Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, Richard Burton and Peter Lawford. The movie contains actual archive footage and according to Five Came Back by Mark Harris, was partially filmed by John Ford and inspired scenes in Steven Spielberg‘sSaving Private Ryan.
‘Blood Alley’ (1955)

Lauren Bacall sitting and looking up at John Wayne leaning over a table looking at someone across from him in Blood Alley

Tom Wilder’s an American sailor who is asked by a group of villagers to help them escape from Chinese Communists. Wilder agrees to take them to a British port but as they embark on the dangerous journey, they are followed by a Chinese gunboat and fighter threatening to destroy their entire plan.
Blood Alley is a Cold War drama featuring Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, who plays Wayne’s love interest. Wayne promoted the movie during his guest appearance on an episode of the hit sitcom, I Love Lucy,where Lucy and Ethel steal Wayne’s cement footprints from the front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater the night before the movie’s premiere.

‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ (1949)

John Wayne lying on the ground of a battle field next to another soldier in Sands of Iwo Jima

During World War II, Marine sergeant, John Stryker is resented by his troops for his strict rules and intense training methods. The men start to appreciate Stryker and his war strategies as they try to survive what would end up becoming one of the war’s bloodiest battles, the Battle of Iwo Jima
Sands of Iwo Jima is directed by silent film director Allan Dwan who successfully transitioned into the Talkies directing several films featuring child-star Shirley Temple. The war movie co-stars John Agar, Forrest Tucker and Richard Jaeckel who all joined Wayne again in the Western, Chisum. Agar also co-starred with Wayne in Fort Apache alongside Temple who married the young actor in 1945.
‘The Quiet Man’ (1952)

Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne sitting in a carriage looking forward in The Quiet Man-1

Sean Thornton’s a former boxer who moves to Ireland and purchases his family’s old home with the intention of living in peace. He meets and marries Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) but when her brother refuses to give them her dowry, Sean’s forced to enter the ring for one final fight.
The Quiet Man is directed by John Ford and is one of Wayne’s best performances alongside frequent co-star, Maureen O’Hara. Wayne and O’Hara co-starred together in a total of five films including another Ford film, McLintock! and off-screen, the two were great friends all the way up until Wayne’s death in 1979. The movie earned Ford his fourth Academy Award for Best Director and still holds the record as the director to win the most Oscars.
‘Donovan’s Reef’ (1963)

Lee Marvin next to John Wayne both soaking wet standing in a fish pond in Donovan's Reef

At the end of World War II, Navy veterans, Donovan, Gilhooley (Lee Marvin) and Doc Dedham, remain on a French Polynesian island where they rebuild the local town. Back in Boston, Dedham’s daughter finds out her father’s still alive and travels to the island in an attempt to collect his share of stocks in their family’s company.
Donovan’s Reef is another John Ford film but due to the director’s declining health at the time, Wayne directed a majority of the film himself. While the movie is a light-hearted comedy, it still manages to address serious issues such as racial discrimination, greed and bigotry. Donovan’s Reef reunited Wayne and Ford in what would become their final film together.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Pushed Through a Severe Injury to Ensure ‘The Train Robbers’ Premiered on Schedule

John Wayne is known around the world as one of the most iconic cowboys of all time. Decades after his death, John Wayne continues to be praised for his nearly 200 unforgettable appearances in film and television. And though his larger-than-life presence, good looks, and husky voice took him far in Hollywood, it was his commitment to his films that led to John Wayne playing such a large role in cinema history.

The Duke began his career in 1926. As time went on, the stoic superstar developed a reputation as a stunt man. Many of his Westerns involved action-heavy scenes, and the technology to make stunt work easier to fake didn’t yet exist. As such, many legendary John Wayne films were extremely physically demanding.

Hiring a stunt man was an option used by many in Hollywood. But The Duke refused. Instead, he insisted on doing his stunts himself. Though this was an admirable step to take, it led to many injuries for Wayne throughout his career.

The audience knew that the hero would win in the end, but reaching victory often involved getting punched, kicked, shot, and stabbed along the way. He was even blown up and crushed by a bulldozer (on separate occasions, of course).

John Wayne Filmed ‘The Train Robbers’ With Broken Ribs

Perhaps the most horrifying injury of John Wayne’s career occurred on the set of the 1973 Western The Train Robbers. In the film, Wayne plays the starring role of Lane, the leader of a group of cowboys hunting down a dastardly train robber.

According to the John Wayne biography entitled Duke by Ronald L. Davis, The Duke broke two ribs mere days before filming began on The Train Robbers. As Wayne was an irreplaceable star, the injury led to a rearranging of the film. Rather than focusing on high-speed chases and deadly battles between cowboys and outlaws, The Train Robbers honed in on dialogue and character building.

That said, it was still a Western, and every Western needs a certain amount of action. For The Duke, it was essential that “the action scenes looked believable”. Wayne was so committed to his scenes that he flat-out refused to work around his injury. “He wasn’t a crybaby,” his wife Pilar Wayne told The LA Times. “He could tolerate pain.”

And tolerate pain, he did. John Wayne pushed through the broken ribs, determined to keep the film as close to the original script as possible. While filming, he was clearly limited with his movements and he appeared somewhat ill on set.

On-screen, however, no one could tell the difference. The Duke still gave a fantastic performance. Three years later, his Hollywood career came to an end, but John Wayne will always be remembered as the tough-as-nails actor he truly was.

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John Wayne

Original Cast of John Wayne’s ‘The Cowboys’ to Celebrate Film’s 50th Anniversary With The Duke’s Family

The career of John Wayne is one of the most revered in all of American filmmaking regardless of genre. Even long after his death, his unmatched contributions to the Western film genre are still a thing of legend.

John Wayne: An American Experience, The Cowboy Channel, Stockyards Heritage, and Hotel Drover have partnered up with the members of the cast of The Cowboys and Wayne’s family. Together, they will host a celebratory festival in honor of the 50th anniversary of the fan-favorite film. The official John Wayne Instagram page announced the event by paying tribute to one of Wayne’s many iconic moments.


“In honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Cowboys, celebrate with members of the original cast & the Wayne family June 24, 25, & 26 in the Fort Worth Stockyards! For a list of events and tickets, head to JohnWayne.com”

The 1972 film is based on the book of the same name by William Dale Jennings. Wayne stars alongside Roscoe Lee Browne, Slim Pickens, Colleen Dewhurst, and Bruce Dern. The Cowboys tells the story of a down on his luck rancher being forced to hire a group of inexperienced cowboys to get his herd to market on time. It’s one of Wayne’s most enduring films with his performance often regarded as one of his best.

The Cowboys Still Holds A Special Place in Hearts of Film Fans

Fans of the film will no doubt be thrilled by the opportunity to hear directly from the people who worked and lived alongside Wayne during the making of the classic film. One member of the cast, A Martinez who played Cimarron, took to his own Instagram account to post a message about his experience shooting The Cowboys for its 50th anniversary.


“It was a thrill and an honor to be a part of this project,” said Martinez in his post. “A haunting, timeless theme, adapted from the novel by William Dale Jennings, brilliantly directed by Rydell. With gorgeous cinematography by Bob Surtees, an indelible score by John Williams –– and a great performance by John Wayne –– the power of #TheCowboys abides.”

The 3-day celebration includes outdoor screenings after sunset on the Livestock Exchange lawn all three nights. Fans will have meet and greet opportunities with 9 members of the cast. Then, A live televised film panel with a studio audience will film at The Cowboy Channel Studio Sunday night. In addition, there will be special installations and reception at John Wayne: An American Experience, a sprawling 10,000 square foot exhibit providing an intimate look at the life of The Duke.

Any fan of John Wayne who can make it to Fort Worth, Texas for this celebration of a beloved piece of Wayne’s filmography should purchase tickets as soon as possible. Relive the memories of this classic film alongside cast members and Wayne’s family with the special event.

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John Wayne

This John Wayne Western Almost Starred Elvis Presley

When you hear the names Elvis Presley and John Wayne, the word icon undoubtedly comes to mind. Although they were famous figures in their own right, they had more in common than you might think. For instance, they nearly starred alongside one another in one of Wayne’s many westerns.

As the undisputed King of rock ‘n’ roll, Presley became a worldwide viral sensation for his gyrating hips and rock-n-roll music. Yet, he also dipped his toes into the world of movies.

He had performed in various movies like King Creole and Blue Hawaii in the past. In addition, he had some Western movie experience when he starred in Love Me Tender. According to IMDb, the movie is a Western set during the end of the American Civil War.

Elvis plays the role of Clint Reno, the brother of a Confederate soldier who becomes involved in a train robbery. The movie was released in 1956, just as Elvis became a rising star. As a result, he grabbed the attention of another acting veteran.

Love Me Tender was the hitmaker’s first movie role. Little did he know, John Wayne was watching at home. As a result, Wayne decided he wanted to collaborate with the rising star.

Elvis Presley’s manager decides on True Grit role

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

As Smith described, anytime anyone wanted to collab with The King, it was “always carried through Colonel.” Presley was at the height of his fame around this time. According to Smith, “Colonel didn’t want him to play … second star with anybody else.” 

Sadly, Presley would miss out on the role of LeBoeuf. In addition, he wouldn’t get to join forces with one of the genre’s most beloved figures. Glen Campbell would instead take on the part. 

However, maybe the decision happened for a better reason. When the film was released in 1969, it was a critical moment for Presley’s career. In December of 1968, just before True Grit premiered, Presley embarked on his now-legendary “comeback special.” In 1969, he delivered almost 60 performances at the magnificent International Hotel in Las Vegas. 

During this whirlwind of a year, Presley proved the point of his manager: Elvis Presley would play second fiddle to nobody, even John Wayne. 

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