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John Wayne

Pairing John Wayne With A Giant Squid Proved A Winning Move For Paramount

When was the last time you were truly dazzled by a special effect? Our mainstream media landscape has been consumed by CGI to the point where we don’t even think about the logistics of what we see anymore. In the series premiere of “House of the Dragon,” Were you awed by the presence of multiple dragons, or did you just go, “Oh, yeah. Dragons. Sure?” Bear in mind, these creatures don’t exist in real life and look entirely real.
At a time where effects are more seamless than ever before, we no longer feel their power because entire movies and television shows go by without a single frame using them. Before digital effects, you had to build this stuff by hand and have them ready to shoot on the day. Because they took so much time, money, and manpower to create, productions would focus their special effects on one single thing: a set piece, a creature, or just a moment of magic. While this was usually done for practical reasons, what it did was give these effects more of a “wow” factor, making audiences wonder about how the thing they just saw was done. They couldn’t just say, “Computers.”
One such instance of this kind of practical effect magic comes from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1942 sea-faring adventure film “Reap the Wild Wind,” starring Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, and a whole host of familiar faces. That film’s climax features Milland and Wayne’s characters underwater, battling a gigantic squid. Even today, the creature work leaves you slightly slack-jawed, and it riveted audiences at the time, making it the fourth-highest grossing film of the year. And people were clamoring to know how they made it.
A bathtub thought

ParamountWhen breaking the story for “Reap the Wild Wind,” Cecil B. DeMille and his trio of screenwriters, Charles Bennett, Jesse Lasky Jr., and Alan Le May (plus the uncredited contributions of Jeanie Macpherson and Theodore St. John), could not come up with an ending to the picture they were all happy with. As recounted in the book “Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne” by Ronald L. Davis, Charles Bennett, who wrote the screenplays to many of Alfred Hitchcock’s pre-Hollywood films, was taking a bath one morning and had his own “Eureka!” moment. His big thought was “Giant squid!” Well, he had a little more than that. He had the whole scene in his head.
Bennett recalls the meeting where he pitched the scene to DeMille:
“I was John Wayne, I was Ray Milland, I was the squid … I acted the whole scene out in front of DeMille.”DeMille was satisfied, adding that it all needed to be, “In Technicolor.” The giant squid was in the picture, and it was going to kill John Wayne’s character, a rarity for the actor so often held up as the bright, shining hero of his pictures. His second-billed turn in “Reap the Wild Wind” is for a character who makes some not-so-savory choices, and him meeting his fate at the hands (or tentacles) of the giant squid is his punishment, even if he does save Ray Milland’s character’s life while doing so.
They had the scene, but they still had to construct how this underwater beast would actually function on film.
Ten days in a tank
ParamountIn order to have a giant squid, you need a giant set to put it in, or in this case, you need a giant tank for underwater photography. Luckily, Paramount had a gigantic tank on the studio lot ready for them to utilize. Ray Milland says of the massive underwater set that was constructed for the scene:
“The tank was almost the size of a football field and about twenty-five feet deep at the deepest part … Down there they had built a marine wonderland: the hull of a wrecked ship, strange and jagged rocks, a slowly moving aqueous forest. And caves, dark and frightening.”Then came the giant squid itself. In total, the squid was 14 feet long. The head of the creature was not particularly articulative, and if you watch the scene, it’s fairly obvious. The thing was clearly quite heavy, and once they got it in the water, it was going to lay where it lay. That was not the case with the tentacles, which are quite remarkable in their dexterity, able to seamlessly wrap around and grip the two actors. They are so convincing that they cover up any deficiencies the squid’s head presents. Its eyes, while clearly fake, do hold some strange menace in them. Cecil B. DeMille said of the creature, “It was truly a marvelous piece of work.”
The whole sequence cost $250 thousand, which is a bit over $5 million today. As for the film’s box office, it grossed $4 million, or nearly $73 million today. Pretty good return on investment.
Won’t say how they did it
ParamountAs movie fans in the age of home video, we have been lucky to dive deep into the special features on a movie and watch all of the behind-the-scenes documentaries. They have been invaluable for us who have ever wanted to know what goes into the filmmaking process, even if it meant breaking the reality of a film to do so. For some people, finding out this information enriches our love of the medium. For others, though, it makes the film not seem as special as it once was.
For “Reap the Wild Wind,” Paramount wanted everyone to be in complete awe of the giant squid. They received letters from people of every walk of life inquiring about how they made the squid for the film (Remember, kids, this was before the Internet). To maintain the air of magic, Paramount’s standard reply to this was simply:
“It is the policy of the studio to release no information on technical details of any motion picture because it would detract from the dramatic illusion.”I can’t help but respect the whole “Accept the mystery” element of the statement. They have even carried that forward onto the Blu-ray release, which features no “Making Of” documentaries (and that comes to us from Kino Lorber, who are usually pretty good about including those kinds of features).
I also wish that Paramount would do a better job of letting people today see this film. Currently, that Blu-ray is the only way you are able to watch “Reap the Wild Wind.” It’s not on a streaming service or available to purchase or rent digitally in any way. That is fine for a physical media fiend like me, but Paramount … let people watch your “John Wayne vs. Giant Squid” movie.
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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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