John Wayne Was so Terrified of ‘Stagecoach’ Success, His Hands Shook – Old western – My Blog
Stagecoach actor John Wayne had plenty of ups and downs over the course of his entertainment career. He started in the props department at Fox, but he found a passion for performance through acting that he felt that he had to pursue. It took time for him to find success with motion pictures, but when he did, it scared him. Wayne was so terrified of a life-changing career after Stagecoach that he couldn’t stop his hands from shaking.
John Wayne was a B-movie star before ‘Stagecoach’
Wayne became one of the biggest movie stars to ever make their way through the Hollywood machine. However, his first leading role in Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail in 1930 was a box office disaster. After Fox faced serious financial difficulties, he had to fend for himself at other Hollywood studios which forced him into B-movie Westerns. As a result, that’s all executives ever saw him as.
Director John Ford had a difficult time getting financing because of the fact that he wanted Wayne to star as Ringo Kid in Stagecoach. They wanted a big name to slap on the front of posters, but Ford knew that he had a star in the making. He ultimately made the correct decision, giving Wayne a massive platform for the rest of his career.
The success of ‘Stagecoach’ scared John Wayne
According to Carolyn McGivern’s John Wayne: A Giant Shadow, Stagecoach played at the Fox Westwood Theater, Los Angeles, on Feb. 2, 1939 for Republic executives. The Western star was so nervous that he couldn’t stay at home. His typist, Mary St. John, noticed his anxiety, as she noted that his hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
Wayne took quite some time to reveal why he was so scared, but he finally confirmed that it was because he feared that his life would never be the same. The success that came from Stagecoach would be unlike anything he ever knew.
“Once this movie comes out … well, everything’s going to change … nothing’s going to be the same for me again … it’s kinda scary,” Wayne said.
John explained that perhaps he didn’t want to be an actor to begin with, but that the career reeled him in after involving himself in it. Nevertheless, she knew that he was right that his life was going to change forever.
The film earned major praise
Stagecoach would become the major breakthrough role that Wayne needed to achieve the level of stardom that he would achieve. Ford was right on the money when he decided to bring the actor aboard for this project. Critics and audiences immediately praised the film.
The Ford movie would ultimately stand the test of time, as its legacy is genre-defying. It’s praised for transcending the Western genre and one of Wayne’s most iconic performances. Additionally, the film was added to the National Film Registry for preservation for its significant contribution to the art of filmmaking.
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