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John Wayne

The Man Who Dared to Fill John Wayne’s Boots

The lanky, long-faced Mr. Cord actually bears a closer resemblance to Tom Tyler, who played the Ringo Kid’s gun-slinging nemesis, Luke Plummer, in the John Ford film, than he does to the towering, barrel-chested Wayne. Under Douglas’s direction, Mr. Cord creates a less charismatic but more approachable Ringo.
In the original film, Ford introduces Wayne with a highly uncharacteristic visual flourish: the camera darts toward Wayne in a rapid dolly shot, as the actor, standing in front of what appears to be a projected background, twirls his rifle in a grand, theatrical gesture. The shot briefly goes out of focus as Ford’s cinematographer, Bert Glennon, struggles to keep up with the change in scale — an effect that may have been accidental, but which grants Wayne an almost supernatural aura, as his face emerges from the blur to fill the screen in a dominating close-up.
This is mythmaking, pure and simple. Douglas, by contrast, discovers Mr. Cord’s Ringo sitting by the side of the road, in a roomy, wide-screen composition that fully integrates the actor with natural environment. In the background, a rushing waterfall imparts some of its strength and wonder to the character, but Douglas soon moves to a higher angle that eliminates the waterfall from the image, and actually seems to diminish Ringo’s stature by looking down on him, hemmed in by a cluster of trees.

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There’s no Homeric apotheosis here, just a frank appraisal of a man who lives within the limits of the natural world. The comparison illuminates the difference between two films and two filmmakers working from what is essentially the same script (although the rewrite, by Joseph Landon, expands some scenes and eliminates others, large passages of Dudley Nichols’s original dialogue are recycled).
While Ford was indisputably the greater artist, Douglas has put his finger on one of the weaknesses of “Stagecoach”: Ford’s determination to make a sort of meta-western, a film that deals in archetypes rather than individuals, and epic themes rather than genre conventions. With “Stagecoach,” Ford’s return to the genre after 13 years of more “prestigious” material, the western achieves self-consciousness, an awareness of itself as America’s official foundation myth.

Douglas almost literally brings the material back to earth, shifting the action from the black-and-white, lunar landscape of Monument Valley (“Stagecoach” was the first film that Ford shot among its eerie promontories) to the fecund greenery of a Colorado mountain range. Ford, in Andrew Sarris’s famous phrase, keeps his eye on the horizon line of history; Douglas, whose sensibility is at once more pessimistic and humanistic than Ford’s, concentrates on the immediate problems facing the characters in the foreground.


Mr. Cord with Ann-Margret, his romantic partner in the film.

Mr. Cord with Ann-Margret, his romantic partner in the film.Credit…Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Mr. Cord with Ann-Margret, his romantic partner in the film.

The 1966 “Stagecoach” is an intriguing anticipation of the disaster-film cycle that would begin in earnest with “Airport” in 1970. An all-star cast (for 1966, at least — Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Bing Crosby, Robert Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers) faces an apocalyptic threat (provided in “Stagecoach” by some uncharacterized Indians, the weakest element in both movies) while trapped within a restricted environment, much like the casts of “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno.”
But what at first seems a threat becomes a sort of therapy, as some characters reveal their hidden weaknesses (Cummings’s smiling, sanctimonious banker has a satchel full of stolen cash), others discover their hidden strengths (Crosby’s alcoholic doctor sobers up long enough to deliver a baby), while the frayed social network pulls more tightly together.
The 1970s disaster films would add a theological dimension (remember the inverted Christmas tree in “The Poseidon Adventure”?) that remains quite foreign to Douglas’s pragmatic personality. There is nothing metaphorical or metaphysical about the violence in “Stagecoach,” which retains the shocking, graphic immediacy that Douglas pioneered in films like “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (1950) and “Them!” (1954).
In Ford’s film, the great set piece is the Indian attack on the stagecoach as it crosses an open stretch of desert. Douglas, no doubt wary of trying to surpass one of the most famous sequences in film history, almost throws away the scene. He covers Ford’s epic vistas with a single helicopter shot and quickly moves the chase into a wooded area, where it ends, not with the magnificent sense of release and deliverance of Ford’s film, but in a squalid shootout.
Instead, Douglas concentrates on Ringo’s last-reel showdown with Luke Plummer, a scene played so perfunctorily by Ford that it seems like an anticlimax (though a brilliant one, I think). For Douglas, the darkened western town, with its deserted streets and little pools of light, becomes an urban jungle right out of one of his early films noirs, and Ringo’s confrontation with a vigorously characterized, actively sadistic Plummer (Keenan Wynn) is brutal and personal.
When John Wayne’s Ringo rides off with his newfound love (Claire Trevor, as the “saloon girl” with a heart of gold), Ford seems to imagine them as a new Adam and Eve, whose children will populate an American Eden of freedom and democracy. Alex Cord’s Ringo enjoys a more prosaic fate, but perhaps a less burdensome one: when he rides away with his saloon girl (a young and impossibly lush Ann-Margret), we see a couple of kids escaping an adult world that has become too corrupt and confining for them.
“Stagecoach” did not make Cord a star, but it didn’t destroy him: he moved into Euro-westerns and television (including a long run as a star of the CBS series “Airwolf”) and today raises horses and writes novels. That seems to me a happy ending, too. (Twilight Time, available exclusively through, $19.95)

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.

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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.”

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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.

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