Monday, 26 January 2009


I really can't remember a time when I wasn't a John Wayne fan. From my earliest visits to the cinema as a child right up until today I have always enjoyed watching Wayne on the big or small screen. I never subscribed to the view that Wayne was a bad actor - an opinion usually voiced by those who look down on the Western as a genre. Sure, the Duke wasn't going to play Othello but I doubt if he ever wanted to, and let's face it, Sir Laurence Olivier wasn't going to play The Ringo Kid, was he? Wayne proved himself a good actor time and time again but more importantly he was a star. My enjoyment of Wayne on the screen had very little to do with the rather pointless question of his acting ability. Of course there were the classic performances for John Ford and Howard Hawks but I also still get pleasure watching those old Wayne B-Westerns made in the Thirties before he hit the big time in Ford's classic STAGECOACH in 1939. I really can't think of a Wayne film that I can't enjoy of some level (although I'm not blind to some of the obvious faults) - even the much abhored THE GREEN BERET has a few delights for the true Wayne enthusiast....which brings me to why I am writing this piece. On a sudden urge today I visited the local HMV shop in search of credit crunch bargains I discovered a box set of DVDs called The John Wayne Paramount Collection . There are several similar box sets on the market but this one really does stand out from the rest, mainly because it lives up to its name. Originally selling at £50 but now reduced to £20 the box contains (very handsomely packaged) all fourteen of the films made by Wayne for Paramount. Included are the movies produced by Wayne's Batjac company and these discs, among them two long unseen items - ISLAND IN THE SKY and THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY - are enhanced by extras and commentaries by Leonard Maltin. The other Batjac titles are the excellent HONDO and the easy to watch comedy McLINTOCK. The other films seem to be sans extras which is a shame (although I've not explored every disc yet) but not, to my mind a fatal flaw, and comprise of Hathaway's enjoyable THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER and the Oscar winning TRUE GRIT, John Ford's romp DONOVAN'S REEF and his late masterpiece THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Otto Preminger's star-studded IN HARM'S WAY, Howard Hawks' classic ELDORADO, his less than classic but fun RIO LOBO and the rompsh HATARI! George Sherman's under-rated BIG JAKE and Wayne's terrific last film, Don Siegel's THE SHOOTIST. Some of these films will be reviewed on this blog over the next few months.

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Unlike you, I can remember when I wasn't a John Wayne fan: up until about 5 years ago. I never had any desire to see a John Wayne film and, consequently, hadn't. I also wasn't a Western fan as well, as you can imagine. However, in the last 5 years or so I've gotten to appreciate Westerns AND John Wayne. As you say, he could in fact act. Of course, he didn't have an immensely wide range but many well-known actors don't. He does, however, have much more than a narrow range. Compare the roles Wayne nailed in THE SEARCHERS, THE QUIET MAN, STAGECOACH, DONOVAN'S REEF and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON; all required quite different acting challenges and Wayne delivered on each one. And, of course, my beloved Katharine Hepburn was always a John Wayne defender and admirer (even though the two were politcally diametrically opposed!) so what more proof do you need?!?