Actor John Wayne knew that he excelled in Western and war movies. He could acknowledge which of his films were good and which left something to be desired. However, Wayne really couldn’t stand one of his features that he called one of his “worst movies ever.”
John Wayne starred in many cheap B-movies
Wayne originally took part in many B-movies over the course of his career. As a result, the Hollywood industry associated him with cheaper productions throughout the 1930s. Director John Ford had difficulty getting funding for Stagecoach because his lead actor’s name didn’t necessarily ensure guaranteed success at the box office. All major studios turned him down, but he was able to strike a deal with independent producer Walter Wanger.
Stagecoach would go on to become a critical and box office success. As a result, Wayne started to get requests for bigger movies after starring in Stagecoach. Some of his co-stars, such as Louise Platt, felt his undeniable potential to become famous for his portrayal of the “everyman” in his performances. Wayne had movies he would much more proud to star in further along in his career, such as She Who Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
John Wayne considered ‘Jet Pilot’ 1 of his worst movies ever
Marc Mompoint’s John Wayne: A Photographic Celebration shares some critical quotes over the course of the actor’s career. Wayne called 1957’s Jet Pilot “undoubtedly one of my worst movies ever.” Unfortunately, the critical response certainly didn’t disagree with him regarding the level of quality here.
Jet Pilot takes place during the Cold War when a Russian jet is taken to an American air base. Anna Marladovna (Janet Leigh) is the pilot onboard who demands asylum. However, she refuses to come clean regarding any Soviet-related information. Meanwhile, Col. Jim Shannon (Wayne) must befriend Anna to gather information on the Soviets. Their situation becomes complicated when they fall in love, but is there any truth to their connection?
Unlike many of Wayne’s movies, Jet Pilot went through some behind-the-scenes issues. There were several directorial changes that further complicated the production. Josef von Sternberg initially worked on the movie until Philip Cochran took over for aerial sequences. Jules Furthman, Edward Killy, Byron Haskin, Don Siegel, and Howard Hughes all had a shot in the director’s seat.
Jet Pilot publicized that it would show off the U.S. Air Force’s latest jets, but they were all terribly outdated by the time the film hit silver screens. Hughes took quite some time tinkering with the feature, and it went through a distributor change from RKO to Universal-International after the sale. Modern aircraft already replaced the ones in the movie, making the feature unable to deliver on its major marketing point.
Director Howard Hughes disagreed with the actor
While Wayne called Jet Pilot one of his worst movies, Hughes absolutely loved the film. He called it one of his favorite motion pictures that he repeatedly watched in the later years of his life. Some critics could appreciate the film’s sense of humor, but critics at the time considered the film outdated beyond its aircraft. The general consensus considered the direction, script, and performances as missing the mark.
Wayne’s most dedicated fans might want to check out all of his movies, but even the Duke himself turned his back on this one.
Actor John Wayne had a very good idea of what type of movie worked best for him. However, his critics judged him for sticking too close to his lane. As a result, they called him a poor actor. Wayne wanted to make one final movie called Beau John, but the “half-Western” film would never come to be.
John Wayne’s final movie was ‘The Shootist’
John Wayne | Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Unfortunately, Wayne died on June 11, 1979 from stomach cancer. However, he never wanted to retire from his passion for making feature films. Wayne starred in his final movie, The Shootist, in 1976. Many folks thought that his performance as J.B. Books would earn him another Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, it never did.
Wayne previously earned Oscar nominations for Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, he finally earned the golden statue with 1969’s True Grit for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Wayne had another movie in mind that could have put him back in the awards season conversation.
John Wayne wanted to make one final movie called ‘Beau John’ that was a ‘half-Western’
“Don’t ever for a minute make the mistake of looking down your nose at westerns.” ???? What’s your favorite John Wayne Western? (photo by @johnhamiltoncollection) pic.twitter.com/dE1g0mtDvK— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) August 29, 2021
Scott Eyman explored Wayne, his various movie projects, and his personal life in John Wayne: The Life and Legend. Toward the end of 1978, the actor didn’t work on any films in a couple of years. Wayne started to feel a bit aimless without having a movie to work on.
The Utah Film Festival awarded him its John Ford Medallion, although his health didn’t allow him to travel. As a result, he asked Peter Bogdanovich to accept it on his behalf. He later brought the medallion to the actor, where they had iced tea. They discussed the old days of John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Ward Bond, where Wayne said, “Christ, everybody’s gone.”
Wayne asked Bogdanovich if he would be interested in directing a movie for him called Beau John. “It’s kind of a half-western thing, it’s not cowboys and Indians, you know, it’s—oh, the humor and the wonderful relationship between this grandfather and the son and the son-in-law and the grandson,” Wayne described. “I hope to hell I live to do it. Just a wonderful story.”
Bogdanovich agreed to direct it and reassured Wayne that he would live long enough to make the movie. Beau John became the primary focus of his life and he later proposed the project to Ron Howard. However, he didn’t want to make it without him.
“I found a book,” Wayne told Howard. “I think it’s a movie. It’s you and me or it’s nobody.”
However, Wayne never had the chance to make the movie.
“It never got past the verbal stage,” Howard recalled. “And at that point, he was showing signs of not being well. I was a little doubtful.”
The actor reflected on Hollywood stars
“I’ve worked with Bette Davis, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda. Here’s the thing they all have in common: They all, even in their 70s, worked a little harder than everyone else.” – Ron Howard pic.twitter.com/YnINN6ftOg— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) April 27, 2019
Wayne had a lot more time toward the end of his life without any movie projects to work on. According to Eyman, he looked back on his career and explained his thoughts on some of his peers. He never liked Clark Gable, telling his daughter, Aissa: “You know why Gable’s an actor? It’s the only thing he’s smart enough to do.”
However, Wayne absolutely loved Gary Cooper. He also had a “soft spot” for Paul Newman, but thought that he needed to stop playing anti-hero roles and directing his own movies.
Additionally, Wayne’s personal favorite actor was James Garner: “I think the best actor in the world today is James Garner. He can do anything—comedy, detective. Just his facial expressions alone are enough to crack you up. They rave about Brando and Scott, but they couldn’t hold a candle to him.”
Wayne disagreed with the movie audiences and thought that Gene Hackman was “the worst actor in town.”