The INSP channel has rounded up a bunch of fan-favorite films for a month-long celebration of the legendary actor.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect schedule changes for The Duke Days of May.
Here’s a great way to enjoy your weekends throughout the rest of May: Spend some quality time with John Wayne.
The folks at the INSP digital cable and satellite television channel have programmed a passel of movies showcasing The Duke for a watch-at-home film festival that continues through May 31. You can learn how to access INSP on the channel’s website. And you can check out the remaining lineup for The Duke Days of May here.
The Undefeated (1969) — The Duke is well-cast as John Henry Thomas, a former Union Army colonel who becomes the unlikely ally of Confederate Army veteran James Langdon (Rock Hudson) when the two men and their associates get caught in the crossfire during the Mexican revolt against Emperor Maximilian. Ben Johnson, Lee Meriwether, Bruce Cabot, Merlin Olsen, Paul Fix, Dub Taylor, John Agar, and Harry Carey Jr. are among the familiar faces in the strong supporting cast. 8 pm ET.
The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) — John Wayne, Oliver Hardy (yes, that Oliver Hardy, of Laurel and Hardy fame) and Vera Ralston are featured in director George Waggner’s 1949 period drama set during the aftermath of the War of 1812. Wayne stars as John Breen, a Kentucky solider determined to help French exiles who may be cheated out of their land grants after settling in Alabama. Ralston plays a French general’s beautiful daughter — who, of course, falls in love with Breen — and Hardy costars as Breen’s loyal comrade in arms. 1 am ET.
McLintock! (1963) — Aptly described by film critic and historian Leonard Maltin as a “slapstick variation of The Taming of the Shrew set in the Old West,” director Andrew V. McLaglen’s 1963 comedy-drama showcases John Wayne as G.W. McLintock, a swaggering man’s man who’s rich enough to accurately claim he owns “everything in this county from here to there,” and ill-behaved enough to drive his well-bred wife, Katherine (Maureen O’Hara), to establish residency back East. Two years after his wife’s departure — she suspected her husband of infidelity, and he never really denied it — Katherine returns to the territory, and to McClintock’s opulent home, to claim their Eastern-educated daughter, Becky (Stefanie Powers), and to start divorce proceedings. But Becky is in no hurry to leave after she discovers her father’s new ranch hand (Patrick Wayne, The Duke’s son) is appreciably more attractive than her Harvard-educated fiancé (Jerry Van Dyke). And Katherine reconsiders her options after falling in love with “G.W.” all over again — after he chases her through town during the movie’s climactic sequence, and none-too-playfully spanks her. 8 pm ET.
North to Alaska (1960) — Henry Hathaway (True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder) directed this wild and wooly comedic western set during the Nome Gold Rush. Wayne stars as Sam McCord, who fortuitously strikes it rich with partner George Pratt (Stewart Granger) — and then reluctantly loses his heart to Angel (Capucine), a shady lady who’s been recruited as George’s finance. Fabian, a pop singer who frequently moonlighted as an actor during his teen heartthrob years, figures into the mix as George’s reckless younger brother, who also sets his eye on Angel. And legendary comic Ernie Kovacs triggers some semi-serious plot complications as a conniving claim-jumper. 1 am ET.
Hondo (1953) — The one and only John Wayne movie filmed in 3-D — all the better to make audiences duck when arrows start flying — this gritty, grown-up Western (based on a Louis L’Amour story) remains, even in 2-D, one of The Duke’s most enduringly popular movies. As Hondo Lane, an Indian scout, ex-gunfighter, and dispatch rider for the cavalry whose best friend is his mangy dog, Wayne makes an indelible impression in an iconographic role, playing the rugged loner as surprisingly sympathetic to the Native American cause — with good reason, it should be noted — even while protecting a neglected woman (Geraldine Page) and her young son (Lee Aaker) from their increasingly (but not unreasonably) hostile Apache neighbors. Not surprisingly, Hondo takes a hankerin’ to the lady in jeopardy. So it’s not altogether unpleasant for him when she agrees to pretend she’s his wife — if only to keep an Apache chief (Michael Pate) from slaying our hero. 8 pm ET
The Quiet Man (1952) — No, it’s not a western. But so what? It’s one of the most beloved movies John Wayne ever made, so it’s a natural for the lineup. As David Hofstede wrote for C&I back in 2014: “The Quiet Man is a St. Patrick’s Day perennial and proof that crusty old John Ford could be as sentimental as Frank Capra. Even the character names were taken from the director’s family tree. The theory that Wayne was Ford in front of the camera is most clearly realized here in the tale of a former boxer (Ford played fullback and defensive tackle) with a dark secret who returns to his mother’s (fictional) village of Innisfree (Ford’s mother was from the Aran island of Inishmore) and courts the feisty Irish lass of his dreams (memorably played by Maureen O’Hara).” 1 am ET.
Rio Lobo (1970) — Howard Hawks’ swan song as a director showcases Wayne as Cord McNally, a Civil War veteran who joins forces with two former Confederate enemies (Jorge Rivero, Christopher Mitchum) to battle land-grabbing varmints in the Texas town of Rio Lobo. If the plot of Rio Lobo seems a tad familiar, well, that’s because it is. As critic Roger Ebert noted: “We go to a classic John Wayne western not to see anything new, but to see the old done again, done well, so that we can sink into the genre and feel confident we won't be betrayed. To some degree Wayne movies are rituals, and so it is fitting that they resemble each other. El Dorado was a remake of Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1958), and Rio Lobo draws from both of them. (It is said that when Hawks called Wayne and offered to send over the script, Wayne replied, ‘Why bother? I've already made the movie twice.’)” Co-stars include Jack Elam, Jennifer O’Neill — and Sherry Lansing, who would later become the first woman ever to head a major Hollywood studio (20th Century Fox). 8 pm ET.
Angel and the Badman (1947) — Writer-director James Edward Grant’s classic crowd-pleaser showcases Wayne as Quirt Evans, a notorious gunslinger who’s sorely tempted to hang up his shootin’ irons when he falls in love with a lovely young Quaker woman (Gail Russell). Unfortunately, his conversion to non-violence may be short-lived: Two pistol-packing varmints from Evans’ past are bound and determined to make sure our hero doesn’t have much of a future. Angel and the Badman was one of several collaborations between Wayne and Grant. Among Grant’s other screenwriting credits: Sands of Iwo Jima, Flying Leathernecks, Hondo, The Alamo, The Comancheros and McLintock! 1 am ET.
3 Godfathers (1948) —Three hard-luck cattle rustlers (Wayne, Pedro Armindariz, and Harry Carey Jr.) ride into a small town to try their hand at a new line of work: bank robbery. But shucks, these fellows are too good-hearted to be real bad guys — they’re even polite to the local sheriff (Ward Bond) while on their way to the heist. While riding across an unforgiving desert with a posse in hot pursuit, they stop to help a dying woman give birth, then vow to care for her orphaned infant. The sentimental streak is a mile wide — and the religious symbolism only slightly less conspicuous — in John Ford’s first filmed-in-color western. But never mind: Wayne has never been more amusing and endearing than he is here as a tough but tenderhearted galoot who awkwardly warms to the task of being a surrogate daddy for a needy newborn. It helps that — for a while, at least — he has two co-stars to share the parenting chores. Think of it as the original Three Men and a Baby. 8 pm ET.
The Undefeated (1969) — 1 am ET.
North to Alaska (1960) — 8 pm ET.
McLintock! (1963) — 1 am ET.
Hondo (1953) — 8 pm ET.
Big Jake (1971) — When we asked Ethan Wayne back in 2007 to name his favorite among his famous father’s movies, he didn’t hesitate: “For me,” he said, “it’s Big Jake, just because I was in it, my brother [Patrick Wayne] was in it, my other brother [Michael Wayne] produced it — and it gave me a chance to work with my dad.” Ethan played The Duke’s kidnapped grandson in the western drama, a gritty action flick directed by George Sherman that also featured Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s longtime friend and frequent co-star, in a supporting role. “The crew that was on that movie, from the stuntmen and the caterers, they were all guys I grew up with,” Ethan Wayne recalled. “They were like my uncles. And the best thing about it was, I was there for just three weeks out of the filming — I was there for the entire filming. And it was the most fun a kid could have.” 1 am ET.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) — Dismissed by many critics during its initial theatrical release, John Ford’s last great Western now is widely acknowledged as one of the filmmaker’s most heartfelt and fully realized works. Granted, James Stewart is just a tad too old to be completely persuasive as tenderfoot Ransom Stoddard, an idealistic young lawyer who finds legalisms are of little use against a wild-eyed outlaw like Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin at his most sadistic). But Wayne is at the top of his form as Stoddard’s unlikely ally, a cynical gunfighter named Tom Doniphon. For all his gruffness, Doniphon emerges as a noble knight errant, a selfless hero who ultimately insists that Stoddard take credit for being the hero of the title. (Doniphon, of course, is the one who actually blasts the bad guy.) Stoddard goes on to become a successful politician, bringing the dubious values of civilization to the Wild West, while Doniphon fades into obscurity, becoming an anachronism long before his death. Ford sums it all up for us through a newspaperman’s final judgment: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’’ 8 pm ET.
The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) — 1 am ET.
The War Wagon (1967) — Call it a Wild West heist movie, and you won’t be far off the mark. When cowboy Taw Jackson (Wayne) is paroled from prison three years after being framed by greedy mining-company boss Frank Pierce (Bruce Cabot), he seeks revenge against the bad guy — and the return of his gold-rich land — with an audacious assault on the steel-plated, heavily guarded “war wagon” Pierce uses for cross-country gold dust shipments. Chief among Jackson’s co-conspirators: Lomax (Kirk Douglas), a flamboyant gunfighter who’s introduced in a saloon/brothel where he sports a dragon-bedecked silk robe while enjoying the company of two Chinese prostitutes. (When Jackson complains about the presence of the latter during a confab, Lomax grins and explains: “Can’t get more private. Neither one of them speaks a word of English.”) Slow-burning Wayne and live-wire Douglas develop a richly amusing give-and-take under the efficient direction of genre specialist Burt Kennedy, and are at their best when trading quips before, during and after gunplay. “Mine hit the ground first,” Douglas brags after they dispose of two would-be assassins. Wayne dryly responds: “Mine was taller.” The strong supporting cast includes Howard Keel, Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn and — briefly, as one of those would-be assassins — Bruce Dern. 2 pm ET.
The Quiet Man (1952) — 8 pm ET.
Rio Lobo (1970) — 1 am ET.