The Duke will make the season bright throughout December with “Westerns All the Way: A John Wayne Movie Month.”
Just when we needed some cheering up last spring, the folks at the INSP digital cable and satellite television channel gave us The Duke Days of May, a month long stay-at-home film festival celebrating John Wayne. Take Two: Now INSP is ready to deck the halls with more Wild West action as Westerns All the Way: A John Wayne Movie Month kicks off Friday, Dec. 4.
You can learn how to access INSP on the channel’s website. And you can check out the lineup for Westerns All the Way: A John Wayne Movie Month here.
El Dorado (1967) — If the plot of El Dorado seems a tad familiar, well it should — director Howard Hawks more or less recycled it from Rio Bravo (1959), and then re-recycled it for Rio Lobo (1970). But never mind: As often is the case with John Wayne westerns, the storytellers, not the story, are what really matter here. As critic Roger Ebert noted in his original review: “Wayne plays a professional gunman who comes to town to take a job from a rich rancher who wants a poor rancher’s water (who says the plot has to be original?). But the sheriff turns out to be his old buddy, [Robert] Mitchum, and so he turns down the job. Then the rich rancher hires another gunman (Christopher George), and Wayne sides up with the drunk and disheveled Mitchum. Duke’s team isn't exactly made of heroes. Mitchum has been hitting the bottle for two months, his deputy (played with charm by [Arthur] Hunnicutt) is a windy old Indian fighter, Wayne has a bullet near his spine that causes a slight touch of paralysis now and again, and his sidekick ([James] Caan) is a kid who carries a shotgun instead of a pistol because he's such a lousy shot. Hawks fashions scene after scene of quiet, earthy humor from this situation. Without great care, the movie could have degenerated into a put-on, but Hawks plays it straight and never allows his actors to take that last fatal step in overacting.” Movie buffs, take note: Listen closely, and you’ll hear a sly reference to Shoot the Piano Player, the 1962 film by Francois Truffaut, the great French filmmaker who, during his days as a critic, championed Hawks’ films long before many U.S. critics did. (8 pm ET)
True Grit (1969) — The Duke won an Oscar for playing a bold-taking one-eyed fat man in this one. What’s that? You want to know more? Well, click here. (8 pm 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. (2 pm ET)
Tall in the Saddle (1944) — During the years immediately following his 1939 career breakthrough in John Ford’s Stagecoach, Wayne was cast in so many westerns that, according to biographer Maurice Zolotow, he at one point complained to a wire service reporter that he wanted nothing more to do with the genre. (No, seriously.) But he obviously changed his mind by the time he saddled up for this sagebrush saga, in which he plays a tough but fair-minded cowhand who defends a young woman against varmints who aim to grab her murdered father’s land. While on location in Lake Sherwood, California, he was interviewed with New York Times correspondent Frank Daugherty, who later wrote: “Mr. Wayne likes westerns and feels he can do better work in the kind of pictures he likes than in run-of-the-mill program pictures. He says now that he will stick with the westerns until he gets the ones he wants.” Luckily for us. (8 pm ET)
Chisum (1970) — The Duke stars as land baron John Chisum in a drama loosely based on real-life events that defined the 1878 Lincoln County War in the New Mexico Territory. Fun fact: At one point during pre-production, Wayne suggested his old friend Ben Johnson should be cast in the role of Billy the Kid — until someone tactfully reminded him that Johnson, already in his 50s, might be a smidge too old for the part. Geoffrey Duel (brother of the late Peter Duel, star of TV’s Alias Smith and Jones) wound up playing Billy, while Glenn Corbett of Route 66 was cast as the gunslinger’s frenemy, Pat Garrett. (10 pm ET)
Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973) — John Wayne reunited with director Andrew V. McLaglen (The Undefeated, McLintock!) to play a widowed lawman whose impressionable sons (Gary Grimes, Clay O’Brien) fall under the influence of a notorious outlaw (George Kennedy). Truth to tell, this isn’t one of Wayne’s very best westerns — even The Duke conceded, in a 1975 interview by Tony Macklin for Film Heritage, that it “needed better writing” and “a little more care in the making” — but for more than a few fans, it remains a sentimental favorite. (12 Midnight)
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. (2 am 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 wasn’t 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.” (8 pm 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 bit 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 Cowboys (1972) — Desperate times call for desperate measures. When cash-strapped cattle rancher Wil Andersen (John Wayne) can’t afford grown-up cowhands, he hires some teenage greenhorns to drive his herd to market. And when Andersen is killed by a psycho varmint (Bruce Dern), the boys must become gunmen to avenge his death. Director Mark Rydell, no fan of The Duke’s politics, admits that he originally didn’t want Wayne for this cult-fave Western. “So I surrounded him with a lot of hippie, pot-smoking crew members,” Rydell recalls. “I didn’t want him to be comfortable. But you know what? He was a gentleman, he was friendly. He was great with the kids, who were always around him. They would climb on him like a monkey bar on a playground. He always had time for everybody. And he taught me a lesson, an important lesson, in my life: not to judge too quickly.” (8 pm)
El Dorado — 11 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 owlhoots 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! (2 am ET)
Hondo — 8 pm ET.
Chisum — 8 pm ET.
Tall in the Saddle — 10 pm 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). (2 pm ET)
Cahill U.S. Marshal — 8 pm ET.
The Fighting Kentuckian — 10 pm ET.
Big Jake — 12 Midnight ET.
Tall in the Saddle — 3 pm ET.
El Dorado — 5 pm 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)
The Cowboys — 8 pm ET.
Chisum — 2 pm ET.
Big Jake — 8 pm ET.
Hondo — 10:30 pm ET.
True Grit —12:30 am ET.