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John Wayne

The Train Robbers Was A Canary In The Coal Mine For The Death Of John Wayne Westerns

The 20-year-long persistence of the superhero genre in contemporary blockbuster cinema has cause many pundits to draw a genre parallel between comic book movies and Westerns. In 2015, the Guardian published an essay comparing the two cinematic trends, largely as a predictor as to when the superhero film would finally cease its continued ascendency. That same year, Steven Spielberg compared the genres, once again using the moribund Western as an indicator of the ephemerality of any genre. Seven years since then, superhero movies have churned out several enormous hits, including several of the biggest box office bonanzas of all time. In 2022, however, the entertainment landscape has changed a lot, companies are merging into weird, gross entities, and high-profile superhero projects now stand the chance of being canceled. Pundits have been predicting it for years, but superhero movies may finally be on the downhill slope. Only time will tell.
“The Train Robbers,” a Burt Kennedy film from 1973, is from a time when the Western genre, at least as a dominant form in the pop consciousness, was most assuredly on the outs. “The Train Robbers” starred a 69-year-old John Wayne as an aging rogue who volunteers to retrieve a store of gold once stolen from a train by Ann-Margret’s late husband. In terms of structure, the film was classic Hollywood — coming right when audiences were souring to classic Hollywood. “The Train Robbers” came the year after “The Godfather,” and grittier, more “film school” movies were on the rise.
The makers of “The Train Robbers” knew that classic Westerns were already a retro genre when they were making it, and, according to Scott Eyman’s 2015 book “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” they tried to outrun their fate by underspending. Needless to say, the big budget didn’t help.
The $200,000 payday

Warner Bros.The $4.6 million budget of “The Train Robbers” translates to about $30 million in 2022 dollars. It was, essentially, a mid-budget movie. Wayne’s star had fallen, and his salary was only guaranteed to be $200,000 — about $1.3 million, adjusted. Wayne was also set to get a percentage of the gross. This relatively low payout was a declarative statement. Warner Bros. had little faith in the picture and in the star.
“The Bank Robbers” was photographed by veteran cinematographer William H. Clothier, an old friend of Wayne’s whom he met on the set of 1955’s “The Sea Chase.” After that film, Clothier would sign onto John Wayne’s own production company, Batjac Productions, and he and Wayne would end up making a total of 22 films together. “The Bank Robbers” came right after Clothier had turned 70, and when Wayne was about to turn 70. Clothier, it seems, was very ready to retire. In Eyman’s book, Clothier had said that he enjoyed his work, but was simply too tired to keep doing the same thing all the time. Clothier’s attitudes seems to belie the overall fatigue that “The Bank Robbers” instilled in everyone. He said:
“I like turkey, I have it at Thanksgiving and New Year’s but I don’t want it seven days a week. If I’m working on a picture at Batjac, I’m picked up at six in the morning to go on location. Duke and I are either the first or second ones on the set. We work until the sun goes down, then I have to go into town to see the rushes. Hell, it’s strenuous to get up at 6 a.m. if all you do all day is sit in a rocking chair!”The Duke wasn’t having fun
Warner Bros.But more harmful to “The Train Robbers” than Clothier’s fatigue was Wayne’s. Clothier recalls that Wayne hadn’t been happy making movies for a number of years. Wayne had a lung removed due to cancer in 1964 and had a reputation for being a heavy drinker. He wasn’t in a spot to have a lot of fun getting up in the morning to shoot out in the desert. Clothier and Wayne were very close — they were able to make shockingly dirty jokes with one another — and Clothier could see that Wayne wasn’t having a blast.
“The Train Robbers” had great production value, but it was, in Eyman’s words, a “programmer.” That is: the film was only meant to fill out the Warner Bros. film slate. There was no ambition or originality to the project. It wasn’t an important piece of art with something to say. It was just a genre going through the motions. “The Train Robbers” was produced by Wayne’s son Michael, and even he knew that the film was automated and even a little cynical. Michael Wayne admitted that he attempted to get something meaningful together, and tried to make it look slick and entertaining, but when the story is dull, no amount of slickness will cover it up. Wayne said:
“I worked very hard on ‘The Train Robbers’ to try to make it into something, when basically the story wasn’t that good. I was trying to make up for the story in production values and cast.”The times, they are a-changin’.
Paramount“The Train Robbers” came out to warm critical acclaim and complete audience indifference. It cost just enough to make and distribute that it was all but guaranteed to lose money for Warner Bros. … which it did. According to Eyman’s book, “The Train Robbers” put the studio in the red to the tune of $7.6 million. The film was made with a dull story, starring an uncommitted star, shot by a photographer on the cusp of retirement, and produced by the star’s son … who also had little faith in the project. It was pretty clear that Westerns were done.
The film’s writer/director, Burt Kennedy, even went so far as to write a note of apology to Michael Wayne. The note read “Really feel rotten about ‘Train Robbers’ falling on its ass. Guess it just wasn’t any good.”
Had “The Train Robbers” been good, who is to say what would have happened. But it’s also safe to say that the movie landscape had evolved past the need for old-world oaters like the ones Wayne was making. By the mid 1960s, Westerns had taken a turn for the arty in the hands of filmmakers like Sergio Leone, and what constituted a hit had changed drastically. In 1972, “The Godfather” had caused an enormous splash with a box office of $86 million. The same year as “The Train Robbers,” “The Exorcist” made $82 million. This was a new generation of filmmakers appealing to a new generation of filmgoers. Westerns had no place.
Should a mid-budget MCU-connected film ever come out that seems to elicit audience indifference and apologies from the filmmakers, we might know for sure that superhero films are done, or will be soon.
Cough, “Morbius,” cough cough.

John Wayne

John Wayne’s Cause of Death and His Last Words

John Wayne is a legendary Western movie star who the world will always recognize for his contributions to the medium. However, his final words on his deathbed didn’t have anything to do with movies or his career. Rather, he used them to speak sentimental, heartfelt words aimed at his daughter, Aissa Wayne, who stayed at his bedside.

John Wayne’s cause of death was stomach cancer

John Wayne wearing a cowboy hat

John Wayne | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

According to, Wayne died on June 11, 1979, of stomach cancer at the age of 72. However, it wasn’t his first encounter with cancer, as he fought it for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the doctors reported that the actor was too weak to begin chemotherapy and experimental treatment, which the actor approved of.

Wayne coined the term “The Big C” for cancer in 1964. He ultimately needed to have his left lung and four ribs removed. Wayne seemed to recover at the time, despite regularly being short of breath. However, he didn’t stop his habit of smoking and chewing tobacco regularly, which certainly didn’t help with his situation.

John Wayne’s last words were to his daughter, Aissa Wayne

Outsider confirmed that Wayne was surrounded by his family during his stay in the hospital. He was never left alone, as the doctors tried to do all they could to strengthen his physical state. However, their efforts ultimately failed. Wayne spent his last days before his death in and out of consciousness.

Wayne’s name is generally associated with a tough sense of masculinity, but he also had a sentimental side of him. These stories particularly come from his family, including Wayne’s final words.

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, was at his bedside at the time of his death. She was holding her father’s hand and asked him if he knew who she was. He responded with his last words, “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

‘The Shootist’ was his final acting role

Wayne’s final movie role before his death was starring as J.B. Books in The Shootist. The film follows his character, who is an aging gunfighter who has cancer. He heads to Nevada and rents a room from the widowed Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). Many folks confront Books for various reasons involving his notoriety. However, Books doesn’t plan to die quietly but will go out with a bang.

Wayne surprised critics and audiences with his performance, as many folks previously believed that he simply played himself in all of his roles. However, he wouldn’t ultimately earn an Oscar nomination for his role.

Wayne earned his first two Oscar nominations for Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, it wouldn’t be until 1969’s True Grit that he would finally earn the golden statue. Many of his fans still believe that he deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his final work on The Shootist.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Miserable’ Because of ‘Venomous Remarks’ on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Western genre went through a series of changes over the years. However, John Wayne will always remain one of the most iconic depictions of the Western film genre with performances in big titles, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he didn’t have such an easy time on the set. Wayne had a “miserable” time filming because of John Ford‘s “venomous remarks.”

John Wayne played Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard shouting at assembly

L-R: John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance follows Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) as he returns to a small town for a funeral. The press questions his arrival, but they’re about to hear the story of his connection to a local man named Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The story brings audiences back in town when Tom saved Stoddard from Liberty Valance’s (Lee Marvin) crew of outlaws. However, Stoddard and Tom are the only two willing to stand up to him and his crew.

Wayne’s performance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is iconic. He once again delivers his Western charm along with his repeated use of the line “pilgrim.” As a result, popular culture continues to refer back to the legendary actor’s performance.

John Wayne was ‘miserable’ because of John Ford’s ‘venomous remarks’ on the set

Wayne worked with Ford on many films, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, the filmmaker often targeted Wayne with “venomous remarks,” verbally attacking him. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth detailed some of the comments that Ford made toward the actor, which really made him angry.

“But the most damage Ford did was to the friendship me and Duke Wayne might have had,” co-star Woody Strode said “He kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player, and because I had been a professional player, Ford kept saying to Duke, ‘Look at Woody. He’s a real football player.’”

However, the comments didn’t stop there. Ford brought up Wayne not serving in the military while on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As a result, he praised Stewart’s service. This is a particular weak spot for the actor, who deeply regretted not serving in the military when he had the chance.

Strode continued: “It’s like he’d needle him about whatever reasons he had for not enlisting in the war by asking Jimmy, ‘How many times did you risk your life over Germany, Jimmy?’ And Jimmy would kind of go, ‘Oh, shucks’ or whatever, and Ford would say to Duke, ‘How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?’ … What a miserable film to make.”

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ goes down as one of the best Westerns of all time

Ford never came forward with a specific reason for verbally attacking Wayne on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Perhaps it was to get a better performance out of the actor. However, it clearly left an impact on the cast and crew.

Fortunately, that didn’t negatively impact the finished product. Wayne fans often assert that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the best Western films of all time. It continues to impact filmmaking to this day. The film only earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but it remains a classic that many viewers rewatch.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Ready For a Fight’ With His ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ Co-Star

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Wayne‘s most iconic roles. However, he didn’t have the most enjoyable time behind-the-scenes. Wayne’s frequent collaborator, John Ford, gave him a difficult time. As a result, he was “ready for a fight” with co-star Woody Strode, who once explained the severity of the situation.

John Wayne plays it tough as Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance finds Wayne playing a local man named Tom Doniphon in a small Western town. Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) comes into town for his funeral, which confuses the press. However, the distinguished man tells the story of how Tom helped protect him against a crew of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

Moviegoers embraced Wayne’s signature dialogue delivery. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance includes one of Wayne’s most iconic words: “pilgrim.” He repeatedly calls Stewart’s Stoddard this, which was an insult within the time period. Nevertheless, Tom maintains Western masculinity as shown in both his narrative and the way the actor plays the part. The character is typically accompanied by his handyman, Pompey (Strode)

John Wayne was ‘ready for a fight’ with co-star Woody Strode

Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth chronicles the iconic actor’s career, including his work on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford repeatedly harrassed Wayne on the set with rude remarks that intentionally pushed his buttons. However, the actor took it out on Strode.

“This really pissed Wayne off but he would never take it out on Ford,” Strode said. “He ended up taking it out on me. We had one of the few outdoor scenes where we hightail it out to his ranch in a wagon. He’s driving and I’m kneeling in the back of the wagon. Wayne was riding those horses so fast that he couldn’t get them to stop. I reached up to grab the reins to help, and he swung and knocked me away.”

Strode continued: “When the horses finally stopped, Wayne fell out of the wagon and jumped off ready for a fight. I was in great shape in those days and Wayne was just getting a little too old and a little too out of shape for a fight. But if he’d started on me, I would have flattened him. Ford knew it, and he called out, ‘Woody, don’t hit him. We need him.’”

However, Wayne ultimately calmed down to allow them to continue filming. Nevertheless, Strode felt that “miserable” tension on the set as a result of Ford’s behavior.

“Wayne calmed down, and I don’t think it was because he was afraid of me,” Strode recalled. “Ford gave us a few hours’ break to cool off. Later Wayne said to me, ‘We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals.’ But I blame Ford for all that trouble. He rode Wayne so hard, I thought he was going to go over the edge. What a miserable film to make.”

James Stewart has top billing on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ultimately gives Stewart top billing over Wayne in all of the promotional materials. However, the film itself and the theatre marquees place Wayne’s name above his co-star. Some audiences contemplate which role is truly the main character of the story, as they both experience hardship and change.

However, neither actor would get an Oscar nomination for their performances in one of the greatest Western movies ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only earned a nomination for Best Costume Design, although it lost to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Nevertheless, the movie remains a vital part of cinema history.

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