Bruce Cabot

My childhood hero in Big Jake and The War Wagon

John Wayne…the first actor I fell in “love” with. Maybe not so much with the man himself but with the on-screen persona. The larger-than-life cowboy. And maybe not so much love but admiration.

The War Wagon (1967) is probably one of the first movies I recall watching. And…I watched it over and over and over and over….at one point I knew most of the dialogue by heart.

Here John Wayne plays Taw Jackson who was wrongfully imprisoned by Pierce (Bruce Cabot) who also takes Jackson‘s ranch on which there is gold. On his early release, Taw Jackson plans to steel gold that Pierce is transporting in an armoured stagecoach (complete with a mean Gatling gun mounted on top) called the War Wagon. Together with Lomax (Kirk Douglas) he plans and executes this job only to have some unexpected change in events. Directed by Burt Kennedy it also stars Howard Keel as Levi Walking Bear amongst others.

What I’ll never forget is John Wayne doing a running-jump-mount onto his horse as only he could do and look good. I must admit, I’m long overdue for a re-watch of this movie. I wonder if so many years later it still holds the same appeal. If anything, it will most certainly take me down a nostalgic path.

The second John Wayne movie I recall so clearly from those days, and prefer it to The War Wagon, is Big Jake (1971). From this one I can still recall the dialogue by heart especially “You can call me father, you can call me Jacob, you can call me Jake, you can call me a dirty son-of-a-bitch, but if you ever call my daddy again, I’ll finish this fight” which he says to his on-screen son James, played by real-life son Patrick Wayne after being called Daddy a few times too many. Throughout the movie there are some wonderful lines which add wonderful character. I’ve just re-watched it this week and still enjoy it as much as I did a number of years ago.

johnwaynebigjake

The story is simple. Little Jake McCandles (Ethan Wayne) is kidnapped by John Fain (Richard Boone) and his gang. Martha McCandles (Maureen O’Hara) says that finding Little Jake¬† “is, I think, going to be a very harsh and unpleasant kind of business and will, I think, require an extremely harsh and unpleasant kind of man to see to it.”. Enter John Wayne as her estranged husband, Jacob McCandles, the man for the job. Joined by his sons James and Michael McCandles (played by Christopher Mitchum and Patrick Wayne respectively), friend Sam Sharpnose (Bruce Cabot) and Dog, they set out to Mexico with a large box of ransom money. What unfolds is a great Western that already shows hints of the new world to come: Michael has a fancy modern looking hand gun and the automobile is already making its film debut. All with the patriarch resisting the change. Directed by George Sherman, I believe John Wayne also had a directing role albeit uncredited. I enjoy watching The Duke being all tough and no-nonsense when he needs to but being the father/grandfather figure in other situations (even if it means being a bit tough and no-nonsense). As much as I’d just love to share some more quotes from Big Jake, I’d rather leave them up to you to discover.

While some may not consider these two the best of John Wayne‘s works, they definitely are the most special to me. And, although there are no cowgirls far and wide, they instilled in me that romantic dream of being a cowgirl. I would have loved nothing better! In fact, to this day, if I could be transported to a “world” of my choosing, I’d be a cowgirl back then.

*Quotes taken from watching the movies

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Angel and the Badman, Republic Pictures and John Wayne

Republic blogathon badgeThere’s something about the “old” Westerns. They were (or are) somehow…magical and despite the lack of the technology that makes said genre all-too-realistic these days, the old ones had this gritty, dusty, unique atmosphere that I feel is missing from current ones (well, when we are rewarded with the rare Western coming our way). I think “Western” I think “John Wayne” and in this am guilty of never giving much thought to the production and/or distribution companies that made them possible. Having come across the Republic Pictures Blogathon by chance, I took some notice…I should shouldn’t I – because without these companies we wouldn’t have entertainment? Let’s face it, we’re all just besotted with who’s in front of the camera and that’s about it. I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve never considered directors, producers and all the other staff, crew and backing companies. Naturally, I did some digging around…I mean, if I’m going to write something about westerns, it can only be about John Wayne and I seriously doubt Republ….oh (raised eyebrows)…hmm…Rio Grande…ok (pause, impressed face), I didn’t know that. Oh, and Angel and the Badman….I think I have that somewhere in my collection – wait – I’ll be right back (rummaging through my DVDs)…ah…yes! thought so…(clutching DVD proudly in hand). I’d better watch this now (10 years after adding it to my collection together with the likewise unseen Stagecoach – so many movies so little time). Next step (I can’t really watch at work even though I’d like to) the web, obviously…let’s see what this Republic Pictures is about…and Angel…

Ah, so John Wayne apparently was almost given up on by Fox who even sold some of his best footage as a contract actor to Republic Pictures. I believe he was eventually doing lots of contract work for Republic (apologies if I’m wrong) in his younger days before they gave him the chance to debut as both a producer and uncredited co-director with Angel and the Badman. Amazing how one never thinks of a young, inexperienced John Wayne waiting for a means to start some sort of stable career that may just take him somewhere – we tend to think of John Wayne the big star (possibly because the works of his established career tend to be more easily obtainable) and to some extent his political involvement. On the whole, this film seems to have been criticised by various reviewers. Well, I’m intrigued now…let me go watch…

So…I’m back. My goodness the Duke is a youngster in this movie! I’ve never seen him so young (don’t cringe at this admission) but generally middle-aged, and once very old (McQ). Bruce Cabot is also in this one. Gosh, they’ve worked together a lot – Big Jake, The Comancheros, McLintock and War Wagon of the ones I’ve seen (and many more of those I haven’t).

I’d also been wondering as to which actress could suitably fill the role of the Angel as I always thought Maureen O’Hara was his perfect on-screen match. Well, I never…the first introduction to Gail Russell as Penelope, the Angel, put all my doubts aside…the way she cracks that whip when she is told to bring the wagon shows she will definitely hold her own!

Now, something I really didn’t quite see coming (and probably still need to get over) is John Wayne fainting. What??? Yes, if you haven’t seen the movie, it is true…who would have thought? Anyway, I’m not going to go into details and spoil the fun for everyone but just say that it is well worth watching. It was nice to watch movie-making of days gone by where the camera movement isn’t as fluid as these days, faster sequences seem a tad to quick, the sound isn’t as crisp, some of the dialogue seems a bit archaic, but all making for the wonderful experience that is Westerns as they were!

I’ve enjoyed Angel and the Badman and since writing this blog, the list of movies to watch¬† grows yet longer…Rio Grande (also Republic Pictures) definitely promoted upwards, together with all the current releases, old releases and all the ones to come….argh, is there ever an end? Well, hopefully not…who could live without movies?