Connect with us

John Wayne

John Wayne Started His Career In Show Business By (Literally) Knocking Over John Ford

When it comes to classic collaborations between actors and directors, few can compete with John Ford and John Wayne. The two made movies together for most of their working careers. Even though Ford had a complicated working relationship with Wayne according to most accounts, bullying and belittling him when the cameras were off, they shared a great affection for each other between movies. And at their best, those movies are unbeatable.
Ford had a bit of a reputation for his behavior on sets, coming from his tendency to yell or roughhouse. If Ford could be a bit of a heel on set, a tyrannical bully with a megaphone, he was beloved to many of his longtime actors, the wide-ranging community that became known as the John Ford Stock Company. In many ways, his behavior was probably excused as a lot of masculine ribbing, men ridiculing each other in the tradition of the Navy or farmwork cultures Ford so loved.
There was a reason that John Wayne did his best to save young John Agar from the director’s wrath on the set of 1948’s “Fort Apache.” The actor was a Ford veteran at that point, having gotten his first Hollywood jobs from the director 20 years beforehand. He knew the man’s tempers well.
In fact, when he got those first jobs, Wayne had to stand up for himself before John Ford. He was just a USC student on a football scholarship then. When Ford decided to try tackling him, he proved his mettle.
The linemen

United ArtistsNeither John Ford nor John Wayne went by their birth names. They had multiple reasons to adopt show business names, whether it was Ford’s desire to not go by his Irish surname of Feeney or Wayne’s first name being the decidedly not rugged Marion. Ford’s name came from his brother Francis, his older sibling who moved west to make pictures in the early 1900s. Wayne’s came from Raoul Walsh, who cast the actor in his doomed cutting-edge proto-widescreen epic “The Big Trail.”
Both men also came from the world of American football. According to Joseph McBride’s “Searching for John Ford,” the director was nicknamed “Bull” Feeney as a student at Portland High School in Maine for his prowess (and brutality) on the field. Even in the fairly unregulated era of the early 1910s, he was notorious for playing rough, and on the rowdy sets of his silent films, lawless football games were rituals. After moving to California, he became a big fan of college football, particularly coach Howard Jones’s team at the University of Southern California. Watching those games, he saw Marion Morrison, the man who would be John Wayne.
At that time, Wayne was just a prelaw student and a surprisingly graceful football lineman at USC. He went by “Duke.” In the summers, he worked as a prop man on local sets, “lugging around furniture and other props” according to McBride. 1926 saw his first film role ever, as a wild, no-line spectator at a horse race in Ford’s Irish drama, “Hangman’s House.” But their first meeting was a tough one.
The wrath of Ford
United ArtistsJohn Ford’s tendency to belittle and emasculate his male actors didn’t start with John Wayne, but Wayne saw perhaps the most brutal edge of it. A lot of it goes back to that first meeting, when Ford saw Wayne working on a set, talked about football some, and delivered what Joseph McBride called “a macho hazing ritual.”
John Wayne remembered the incident during his 1976 appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show,” talking about how Ford, having played a great deal of football in his life, got Wayne to try to tackle him. As Wayne recalled, “he just kicked my feet out from under me.” Wayne was reeling from the typically rough work of Ford, who, per McBride, sneered at the young prop man and sarcastically said, “and you call yourself a football player.”
That gave Wayne the push he needed to attempt something on the older man. He didn’t have any interest in an acting career at that time, so, no fear for his professional future, he asked Ford to try it again. That time, when Ford came charging, Wayne kicked him in the chest and knocked him over. There was, as Wayne recalled, “a deadly silence.”
And then laughter. Wayne proved his mettle to Ford, who was so charmed by his willingness to fight back that he hired him a couple more times through the ’20s. He didn’t give John Wayne a starring role until a decade later, with 1939’s “Stagecoach,” which was effectively the star’s entry into the big leagues after 10 years of low-budget cowboy flicks.

John Wayne

Here Are the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Westerns of All Time

The American Film Institute decided the top 10 Westerns of all time and we’ve got the 411 on the ones that ranked. People have always loved Westerns, and we’ve listed 8 of the most popular according to AFI.

First up, Cat Ballou, the 1965 Western comedy from Elliot Silverstein. It starred Jane Fonda as Cat and Lee Marvin in a dual role as both the man who killed Cat’s father and the gunslinger who helps her get revenge. Narrated through song by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, what made “Cat Ballou” so special was the female lead, which was rare for a Western.

Next, John Ford’s turning-point 1939 film, Stagecoach. It starred John Wayne and Claire Trevor. The film follows a group of interesting characters as they travel in a stagecoach together, which paved the way for the road trip trope. The passengers have to contend with the Ringo Kid, an outlaw, and the threat of Apache attack as they travel to New Mexico in the 1880s.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Robert Altman’s 1971 film, was a Revisionist Western piece starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. The film follows gambler John McCabe as he upstarts a successful brothel in a Washington town with Constance Miller’s help. The two strike up a romance, but when a mining company offers to buy his property, McCabe refuses.

No list of Westerns would be complete without Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The 1969 film from George Roy Hill starred Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid. The two got into all sorts of trouble, fleeing from the law after train robbing. The pair escape to Bolivia, but find they must fight the urge to commit crimes.

AFI’s Top Ten Westerns: Stagecoaches, Shoot-Outs, and Searchers

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch comes up next. The 1969 Western starred William Holden, with Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson as his gang. The outlaws prepare to go through with a heist, only to find out the whole thing is a setup. The film is full of gratuitous violence and bloody shootouts; sure to satisfy fans of more gory Westerns.

Up next on the list, Red River. This 1948 Howard Hawks film follows John Wayne as Thomas Dunson, who aims to drive his cattle to Missouri for a better price. Montgomery Clift stars as Matt Garth, an orphaned youth whom Thomas takes under his wing. The film was shot on a grand scale, with sweeping landscapes and plenty of cattle. This is a must-watch for those who love big Westerns.

Then, Western star Clint Eastwood took a stab at directing his own with 1992’s Unforgiven. Starring Eastwood and co-starring Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris, the film follows Eastwood’s William Munny as he comes to town to catch a group of bandits. Harris’ English Bob comes to town as well, for the same reason, and the two outlaws clash with the local sheriff.

Additionally, the 1953 film Shane takes the American cowboy and turns him on his head; the cowboy retires to a ranch in Wyoming, but while working there falls in love with the ranch owner’s wife. He realizes that to save the ranch he has to fight the big cattle baron threatening to take the land. There’s something about watching a kid shout “Shane! Come back!” over an echoing, barren wasteland that tugs on the heartstrings.

Continue Reading

John Wayne

John Wayne: Which of the Duke’s Films Made the Most Money?

During his iconic Hollywood career, John Wayne made many popular films. These filmed are remembered for their drama, action, locations, scenes of heroism, and of course, for the Duke himself.

His films were usually Westerns or were about war. Wayne’s was a career that pretty much anyone hoping to make it in the movie business would envy.

Here’s an interesting question: Out of all of those popular movies, which of the Duke’s films was the most successful financially? Let’s find out.

According to, that title goes to the 1962 film, “How the West Was Won.” This film also starred James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Gregory Peck in this movie about the expansion into the American West. It made $440 million. (The website has adjusted the earnings of each of these films. The figures presented here are the films’ domestic grosses.)

Interestingly, the second most financially successful film of Wayne’s career was also released in 1962. It was “The Longest Day” and made $382 million. This film told stories from D-Day during World War II. The cast also included Fonda, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Eddie Albert, and Richard Beymer.

Bringing in the third-highest gross of the Duke’s career was “Reap the Wild Wind.” It was released in 1942 and made $361 million. It also starred Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland and followed the events that took place after a shipwreck in Key West.

The 1954 film “The High and the Mighty” comes in fourth place on the list of John Wayne’s highest-grossing films. It made $347 million. In fifth place is the 1955 film “The Sea Chase.” It also starred Lana Turner and “Gunsmoke” star James Arness.

List of John Wayne’s Most Financially Successful Films Also Includes One That Won Him an Oscar

The top 10 list of John Wayne’s highest-grossing films includes some of his most popular, as well as the film that won him an Academy Award.

Rounding out the top 10 highest-grossing John Wayne movies include “The Alamo” from 1960 in sixth place with $300 million. “The Sands of Iwo Jima” from 1949 comes in seventh place with almost $296 million. “Red River,” which was released in 1948 is in eighth place with almost $270 million.

The 1969 film “True Grit” is in ninth place with $262 million. It was his role as Rooster Cogburn that won John Wayne an Academy Award. The movie also starred Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Kim Darby.

Rounding out the top 10 was the Duke’s 1959 film “Rio Bravo” with almost $251 million.

Now we know which John Wayne’s movies were his biggest financial successes in the United States. So, which film came in last on that list? This title goes to the 1929 film “Words and Music.” It reportedly grossed $13.6 million.

Interestingly, the list of John Wayne’s highest-grossing films worldwide is different from the domestic list shared above. The top five films on this list, from No. 1 to No. 5, are: “How the West Was Won”; “The Alamo”; “The High and the Mighty”; “Rio Bravo”; and “The Sea Chase.”

Continue Reading

John Wayne

John Wayne Turned Down ‘Waco Kid’ Role in 1974’s ‘Blazing Saddles’: Here’s Why

“Blazing Saddles” fans, you almost had John Wayne playing the “Waco Kid” in Mel Brooks’ classic film. But “The Duke” said no.

Mel Brooks, who directed and co-wrote the script for “Blazing Saddles,” was asked about Wayne turning down the role in a 2016 interview with Philly Metro.

“He did,” Brooks said in confirming Wayne turned down the role. “I wanted him to play the Waco Kid, because the Duke was such a good actor. His reality is that he is the cowboy Western.

“We were in the commissary at Warners, I gave him the script and he promised he’d read it overnight,” Brooks said. “The next morning I saw him and he says that he loves it — every beat, every line — but that it’s too blue, that it would disappoint his fans. He said, though, that he would be the first one in line to see it.”

Gene Wilder Takes Over Role In ‘Blazing Saddles’

When Wayne passed on it, Brooks initially looked to actor Gig Young to play the “Waco Kid.” Young, who battled alcoholism, showed up for the first day of filming. It did not go well. He collapsed during his first scene while dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

So, who did Brooks eventually turn to for this role? It just took one phone call to Gene Wilder, who flew out to Los Angeles and started filming.

Brooks and Wilder had worked together on an earlier Brooks film, “The Producers.” Wilder actually turned down another role in the film, that of Hedley Lamarr. Comedian Harvey Korman, who made a name for himself on “The Carol Burnett Show,” eventually was cast in that role.

Cleavon Little Role Originally Set For Richard Pryor

Of course, Cleavon Little plays Sheriff Bart in the movie. It was a role that Brooks wanted to give to Richard Pryor, who was a co-writer of the movie script. Warner Bros., though, was reportedly scared off by his drug arrests.

They wouldn’t insure Pryor for the movie, so the part went to Little. Other cast members include Madeline Kahn, Slim Pickens, and former National Football League star Alex Karras.

The studio gave Brooks a $2.6 million budget for his 1974 release. As of 2012, “Blazing Saddles” had earned $119.6 million in the United States and Canada combined.

One could say that Warner Bros. earned back what it put out, and then some, from the witty, wild mind of Mel Brooks.

Continue Reading