John Wayne Compared His Breakout Movie Set to ‘Alcoholic Orgies’ – Old western – My Blog

John Wayne Compared His Breakout Movie Set to ‘Alcoholic Orgies’ – Old western – My Blog

Actor John Wayne is no stranger to a movie set. However, every major motion picture star needs to start somewhere. He had his breakout leading role in director Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail. None of his fans could guess exactly how wild Wayne found the atmosphere to be on the movie set. He once compared his experience on The Big Trail to “alcoholic orgies.”

‘The Big Trail’ was a massive John Wayne epic
Actors Wayne and Ward Bond were very close friends. They worked on The Big Trail movie set in Yuma in April 1930. According to Carolyn McGivern’s John Wayne: A Giant Shadow, the production managed to hire the actor for cheap, given that he was new to the scene. However, they did spend large sums in other areas, including locations. Walsh filmed in locations across five states, requiring the cast and crew to travel over 2,000 miles to make the film.
Walsh encountered many “logistical problems” while shooting The Big Trail. Many crew members didn’t speak English, which presented difficulties. Additionally, he filmed a German version of the film simultaneously on the movie set using the same basic cast.

Walsh was filming two versions using different cameras for 35mm and 70mm, requiring two separate crews at the same time. The first movie set Wayne played a leading character on was “enormous and nothing like it had ever been tackled before.”
John Wayne compared ‘The Big Trail’ set to ‘alcoholic orgies’
McGivern explained how Walsh was under the “most terrific pressure” putting together The Big Trail. He had to work with a collection of New York stage actors who hated the heat and discomfort that came with the various filming locations. Additionally, they hated the repetitive takes. However, Wayne explained that the stars on the movie set were drunk for a large majority of the time.
“They and the screenwriter were plastered most of the time,” Wayne said. “Nights in Yuma were like alcoholic orgies.”
Nevertheless, Wayne stayed on his best behavior and took the experience very seriously. As a result, he impressed Walsh and would later boost his career starring in John Ford pictures. However, The Big Trail wasn’t the roaring success that they hoped it would be, initially setting the actor back for quite some time.
The actor’s first leading movie role was a box office bomb
The first major movie set Wayne would star in would ultimately become a box office disaster. The Big Trail hit the silver screen in a widescreen format when the majority of theaters only had standard-sized screens because of the Depression. As a result, they couldn’t afford to upgrade their technology.
As a result, Wayne had to stoop to low-budget serials and motion pictures that didn’t do him any favors at the time. However, Wayne had a following that only increased in size in the South over time, allowing him to re-enter the world of major motion pictures.
Nevertheless, critics praised The Big Trail, as it became a significant piece of cinema history. As a result, the United States Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry.


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