Tag: john wayne

MOVIE REVIEW | Stagecoach (1939)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: Stagecoach might not be as visually rich and emotionally complex as the work Ford and Wayne would do together later in movies like The Searchers, but their first collaboration might just be their most purely entertaining.”

Stagecoach 1
“Well, there are some things a man just can’t run away from.”

The Western genre has evolved and changed enormously over its century or so of existence.  And even though it has had plenty of peaks and troughs in popularity with audiences, it’s probably still the most immediately recognisable genre in film.  A desert vista, a man on a horse, a poncho or hat…  You see any combination of these, and within seconds, you can pretty safely assume that you’re watching a western.  And even with the massive changes and evolution over the years, I feel like it’s a valid statement that no one did more to define the genre than director John Ford, along his frequent leading man, John Wayne.  I’ve seen more than few Ford / Wayne team ups over the years, but now I’ve seen where it all started, Stagecoach.

The titular stagecoach arrives in a small Arizona town where it picks up its load of passengers.  There’s disgraced prostitute Dallas (Claire Trevor) who’s being run out of town by some uptight squares.  There’s drunk doctor Boone (Thomas Mitchell) who’s being run out of town by some different uptight squares.  And there’s Lucie (Louise Platt), a pregnant wife catching to stagecoach to be with her soldier husband at his cavalry outpost before the baby is born. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #12. The Searchers (1956)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

 Searchers 1

“Figure a man’s only good for one oath at a time. I took mine to the Confederate States of America.”

I like westerns in general. I recognise that there is probably no duo who has influenced the genre more than director John Ford and actor John Wayne. I’ve known of The Searchers and its amazing reputation for years. Even Martin Scorsese, my own hero in the world of cinema, rates at as one of the greatest movies ever made. So why have I never seen it until now? Maybe that reputation was a little overwhelming.

It wasn’t that I thought it couldn’t live up to the hype, it was exactly because I was sure it would. You can only see a movie for the first time once, so when I was all but certain it was going to be amazing, I got a bit anxious about that first time. Sort of like every female character in every 80s movie about high school kids. Then I bought a new telly. A glorious 55 inch bastard with all the fruit. That was when I knew it was time to tackle the Johns, Ford and Wayne, and The Searchers. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Red River (1948)

Red River

“Never liked seeing strangers. Maybe it’s because no stranger ever good newsed me.”

How many times can you watch John Wayne fight Indians and tame the old west, while also resisting progress as he tries to stick to his ways, surrounded by younger generations intent on change?  Well, it turns you can watch that a lot.  Because I’ve seen it Rio Grande, I’ve seen it in True Grit, I’ve seen it in The Searchers, I’ve seen it in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, I’ve seen it in Rio Bravo and now, I‘ve seen it in Red River.  And it’s still, pretty entertaining.

On a wagon train trail from St Louis headed for California, Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) decides to break off from the group and stay in Texas, where he likes the look of the grasslands for raising cattle.  A few hours later, along with trail hand Nadine Groot (Walter Brannan), they see dark smoke in the distance and know that the rest of the wagon train has fallen victim to marauding Indians.  They dig in on a river bank and wait to be attacked that night.  The attack comes, they win and the next morning a teenage boy wanders into their camp, distraught after seeing the Indian attack while going unnoticed himself.  The two men, one boy, one cow and one bull claim some land in Texas, kill a few Mexicans to keep it, and begin building the enormous cattle ranch Dunson always dreamed of. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | How the West Was Won (1962)


“About 150 years ago, an idea took shape in the mind of a man named DeWitt Clinton. And in the way Americans have of acting out their dreams, it came to be.”

One of the biggest problems in big budget movies, is the tendency for studios to pile on more. More big name stars, mores special effects and action, more romantic interests, more, more, more. The theory being, if they put enough crap in there, everyone will find a reason to hand over their hard earned at the cinema. 99.9% of the time, this only makes movies worse. The more surface level glitter they throw on there, the more substance has to be taken out to make room. But sometimes, more really is more, and it actually pays off. And it pays off big in How the West Was Won.

Five short stories, following several generations of one family across half a century and an entire continent, the movie opens with Zebulon Prescott (Karl Malden), leading his family from the East Coast, to the new frontier in Illinois. Along the way, they meet and befriend a mountain man, James Stewart as Linus Rawlings. Soon, a Prescott daughter’s in love with him and they’re saving each other from ruthless bandits. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Rio Grande (1950)

The Duke’s been dead for almost 36 years, but I’d argue he’s still probably the most recognisable face and name in Westerns.  John Ford’s been dead almost a decade longer, and even though I’ve seen very few of his movies, I know he’s responsible for establishing and shaping the Western genre.  And their contribution to the Western is pretty well summed up in Rio Grande.

As Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke, Wayne commands a cavalry unit near the Rio Grande River, the border between America and Mexico.  When some new recruits arrive, one is revealed to be his son, Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.).  Jeff recently flunked out of officer’s school and has enlisted as a bottom level trooper.  Father and son haven’t seen each other in 15 years and things starts out a little frosty.

Constantly fighting the Apache, Kirby and his men are in a precarious position when the enemy keeps retreating across the Mexican border after their guerrilla assaults, making them off limits in between sneak attacks.  Add to this Kirby’s estranged wife (Maureen O‘Hara) who shows up trying to save their son, and he’s copping it from all directions.

In the Coen Brothers awesome movie Barton Fink, studio head Jack Lipknick (Michael Lerner) is talking to his newly signed screenwriter, Barton Fink (John Turtorro), who he wants to write a wrestling picture.  While espousing the creative freedom he’ll give Fink and the originality he wants in return, he without irony gives Fink the rundown on what’s expected from the screenplay…

“Wallace Beery is a wrestler. I wanna know his hopes, his dreams. Naturally, he’ll have to get mixed up with a bad element. And a romantic interest.  You know the drill.  Romantic interest, or else a young kid. An orphan”.

Watching Rio Grande and thinking back on the only other Ford / Wayne joint I’ve seen, Fort Apache, I feel like they may have had similar notes from the studio…

“The Duke plays a cavalryman. I wanna know his hopes, his dreams. Naturally, he’ll have to fight the heathen red man (‘coz this is the 50s, so it’s not yet racially insensitive for us to say things like that). And a romantic interest.  Probably an estranged wife or long lost love.  You know the drill.  And don’t forget, his second in charge needs to be a drunk Irishman.  Nothing makes more effective comic relief than a tippled mick (did I mention it’s the 50s ?)”.

But all the box ticking and by the numbers plotting of Rio Grande never really bothered me.  There’s a let’s-put-on-a-show vibe about movies from that era that is infectiously charming.  It’s like studios and film makers felt obliged to give their audience a cabaret show amidst their gritty Western.  Saddle worn, hard as nails cavalrymen?  Better make sure they get to sing a few songs.  What about horse stunts that have nothing to do with reality?  No worries, we’ll shoehorn in a reason for a few dudes to ride two horses at once, while standing up!

It’s clichéd, it’s hammy, it’s predictable and it’s on the nose.  But I’ll be buggered if I wasn’t entertained but Rio Grande.  Westerns might have become grittier since, but 60 or 70 years ago, no acting and directing pair did it better than John Wayne and John Ford.

Rio Grande
Directed By – John Ford
Written By – James Kevin McGuinness