John Wayne, James Caan, and Robert Mitchum laughing on the set of "El Dorado" (1966). Photography: Courtesy John Wayne Enterprises
John Wayne, James Caan, and Robert Mitchum laughing on the set of El Dorado (1966). Photography: Courtesy John Wayne Enterprises

Duke fans rejoice: See John Wayne as you’ve literally never seen him in the rare photos of The John R. Hamilton Collection.

Has there ever been a man more captivating to the camera than John Wayne? The proof of the resounding “no” lies not just in the films the Duke made but also in the recently uncovered photographic archives of John R. Hamilton.

It’s been called one of the greatest collections of American Western and Hollywood photography. Documenting some of the most iconic movies and stars of Hollywood’s golden age, Hamilton chronicled the filming of some 77 movies, many of them epic westerns — Cheyenne Autumn, Hombre, The Sons of Katie Elder, El Dorado, and Silverado among them. He captured a host of stars — including Wayne, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Ann-Margret, Clint Eastwood, and Natalie Wood — at work and at play on and off the set.

Paul Newman on the set of Hombre (1967). Photography: John R. Hamilton Archives
Brigitte Bardot cools her feet during a break in filming Viva Maria (1964). Photography: John R. Hamilton Archives
Photography: Courtesy John Wayne Enterprises
John Wayne in car with Howard Hawks, Michele Carey, and James Caan on the set of El Dorado (1966). Photography: Courtesy John Wayne Enterprises

His accomplished and comprehensive depiction of life in the cinematic Old West earned Hamilton the label “Remington with a Camera.” It also garnered the respect of his industry colleagues, 300 magazine covers, and his eventual induction into the Photographic Hall of Fame.

When the then-magazine photojournalist was hired as a special photographer on his first film in 1956, Hamilton had the most fortunate fate of finding himself on the set of what would come to be considered by many the best western ever made: the John Ford-John Wayne classic The Searchers. Hamilton would go on over the next three decades to a brilliant career as a cinema lens man.

Natalie Wood (17 years old) on set during the filming of The Searchers in Monument Valley, AZ/UT (1955). Photography: John R. Hamilton Archives

The special photographer on five of Ford’s final films, he shot four movies and a cover story with Wayne. “What inextricably linked the three was their love of the American West,” reads a press release from John Wayne Enterprises. “Ford set the scene (Monument Valley was his favorite location), Wayne portrayed the unvanquished hero, and Hamilton was the poet laureate who painted the canvas with his action photographs and his stunning vistas of an elegiac West.”

Currently, progress is being made in digitizing key portions of Hamilton’s life’s work as well as in the mounting various exhibitions across the country and planning for the publication of several books on the collection.

A selection of photographs from the collection will be on view in Dallas during the John Wayne Film Festival and can also be seen at the Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

The John Wayne Film Festival will be held September 24 – 27, 2015, at Highland Park Village Theatre and LOOK Cinemas in Dallas. On Thursday, September 24, the Wayne family will participate in an Art Walk through Highland Park Village, which will feature the recently uncovered “Lost Archive” of rarely and never-seen photographs from the John R. Hamilton Collection. The Art Walk is open to the public September 21 – 26. To see more from the collection, visit www.johnhamiltoncollection.com.

 

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