‘Gunsmoke’ Director Andrew McLaglen Went on to Make Westerns with John Wayne
Gunsmoke Director Andrew McLaglen had his good friend John Wayne to thank for his directorial run in Hollywood.
According to an interview with the Directors Guild of America, McLaglen got his start in the industry as an actor. He followed in the footsteps of his Oscar-winning father, Victor McLaglen. But after only two gigs, he realized he wanted to work on the other side of the camera as a director.
So once he graduated high school, he started working towards his dreams.
Eventually, McLaglen landed a job as the assistant director for the 1952 film Big Jim McLain, which starred John Wayne and James Arness.
At the time, the then 32-year-old already had a movie that he wanted to make. However, he had no way of funding the project. But once John Wayne recognized his talents, he decided to help McLaglen get his idea to theaters.
“Duke knew that I wanted to be a director,” McLaglen said. “And he called me aside one day and he said, ‘Listen Andy McSandy (did you read that in Wayne’s voice, too?), I’ll guarantee the loan. I know it isn’t a big picture. I’ll guarantee the loan and why don’t you go ahead and make an arrangement to make your movie.’”
And with that, Andrew McLaglen made his directorial debut. The project was the 1956 thriller Man in the Vault, which tells the story of a locksmith who gets caught up in a bank robbery.
That same year, he also released his first Western Gun the Man Down, starring James Arness.
Andrew McLaglen Went on to Work with John Wayne Five More Times
After working with McLaglen, Arness was so impressed that he got him a job directing an episode of Gunsmoke. And that job led to 95 more. Thanks to that series, McLaglen found his niche in Hollywood, and he went on to make dozens of Westerns.
Some of his works include The Way West with Kirk Douglas and Bandolero! with James Stewart and Dean Martin. He also reconnected with The Duke to direct McLintock!, The Undefeated, Chisum and Cahill U.S. Marshal. And he directed Wayne in his 1968 action-drama Hellfighters.
‘Gunsmoke’ Helped Make Burt Reynolds A Bonefied Hollywood Legend
Gunsmoke didn’t just help director Andrew McLaglen earn a place in Tinsel Town, it also helped turn Burt Reynolds into a legend.
Though Reynolds had a few jobs before finding a regular spot on the iconic Western, Gunsmoke was definitely his big break. And after a few episodes with the series, he started getting offers to star in major movies.
However, his obligations with the series made it impossible for Reynolds to take on too many side gigs. So while starring next to Will Arness and Amanda Blake got him noticed, it eventually held him back.
So one of his co-stars told him to quit, and he did.
“I enjoyed being on Gunsmoke,” Reynolds shared Cowboys and Indians. “But if it hadn’t been for Milburn Stone, this interview might not even be taking place.”
According to Reynolds, Stone told him that his movies were “taking off — get out of here.”
“I said, ‘Don’t you like me?’ He said—total gentleman that he was—’ I love your work. But it’s time to think about your movie career,” the actor continued. “I knew he was the smartest guy on the set — I always thought that. He was so wonderful. So I quit.”