Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Professionalism of John Wayne: Actors on Working with the Universe’s Brightest Star (Video)

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix


Here’s a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years with actors talking about working with John Wayne. They include James Caan, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Dern, Robert Duvall, and more.

Rewind: Actors on Working with John Wayne (Video)

Porfle Popnecker
1 month ago

“Here’s what Katharine Hepburn had to say about Duke and his acting abilities (I consider this the last word on the subject): ‘As an actor, he has an extraordinary gift. A unique naturalness. Developed by movie actors who just happen to become actors. Gary Cooper had it. An unselfconsciousness. An ability to think and feel. Seeming to woo the camera. A very subtle capacity to think and express and caress the camera – the audience. With no apparent effort. A secret between them … Wayne has a wonderful gift of natural speed. Of arrested motion. Of going suddenly off on a new tack. Try something totally unrehearsed with him. He takes the ball and runs and throws with a freedom and wit and gaiety which is great fun. As powerful as is his personality, so too is his acting capacity powerful. He is a very very good actor in the most highbrow sense of the word. You don’t catch him at it.’”

N.S.: That’s an exquisite statement. And Kate Hepburn was uniquely placed to make it. In 1975, she and Wayne made a dog of a movie called, Rooster Cogburn (…and the Lady). It was a cross between True Grit (1969) and The African Queen (1951). At one point, after a long day of shooting, Hepburn, who was the same age as Wayne (67), asked him, "Duke, may I ask you a personal question?" "Sure, Kate." "Do you hurt?" "All over."

Seeing as the picture starred two living legends, you’d think the producer would have killed himself to do right by them. Think again.

The producer was Hal Wallis, who was a major independent production company, who had been nominated for the Oscar Best Picture six times, winning once. (Ignore, which says Wallis snared only three nominations and no Oscars.) Wayne made about half of his pictures in those days through his personal production company, Batjac, with his son Mike producing. One time Wayne did a picture for Wallis (who had produced True Grit), and Mike asked why. The father responded, “He’s a better producer than you are,” which was true. Mike kept costs down, but he made turkeys. (Beginning in the late 1940s, John Wayne produced many excellent pictures, including Angel and the Badman (1947), Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), Hondo (1953), The High and the Mighty (1954), Seven Men from Now (1957) and The Alamo (1960), before his son came on board.)

[Hal Wallis got an official producer—as opposed to “executive producer,” which is not Oscar-eligible—credit for: Sergeant York (1941); Casablanca (1942), which won for Best Picture; The Rose Tattoo (1955); Becket (1964); and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). He also produced Best Picture nominee Watch on the Rhine (1943) for Warner’s, though without receiving a credit. Well, he’s getting that credit here.]

Unfortunately, Wallis dropped the ball this time. The script, by one “Marty Julien,” was so awful that Wayne and Hepburn just ignored it, and ad-libbed their dialogue. “Marty” was a pseudonym for Wallis’ wife, actress Martha Hyer. And the director, Stuart Millar (who’d had success as a producer) was so incompetent that the stars simply ignored him, too.

However, based on the stars’ reputations and chemistry, the picture turned a profit, the only one that did during Wayne’s waning years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why aren't there "oater" flicks anymore? Producers can't think of an excuse to put blacks in the damn thing--and blacks must be in EVERYTHING to be made today. Cowboy movies are by definition, about a time in our country that was White--a celebration of White history--so no more "oaters".Any Westerns today are probably independently financed,low cost films--not major studio backed ventures.
"Rust",I believe was a Baldwin production.Clint Eastwood's last film,"Macho", was an Eastwood production.