John Wayne

John and Jeff are Rooster…

How cool is this…two of my favourite actors, in my favourite genre playing the same character and both being nominated for an Oscar. Pretty awesome right?

TrueGritYep, the amazing John Wayne and Jeff Bridges were nominated for their respective roles as lawman Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 and 2010 versions of True Grit. That is, of course, actor in a leading role (or however the award is phrased at any given time). Pretty much…some pretty darn good acting by an actor in the lead role.

As it would be totally wrong to compare the two and their take on this iconic role, I’m not going to do so. To ensure this, I’m only going to re-watch the 2010 True Grit after I’ve written up my 1969 True Grit bit. (No way…already 8 years old!)

Let me start with John Wayne purely because I only just watched this last night (well, by the time I post this it will be “three nights ago”). I’ve had the DVD in my collection for years. Yes…years. And I can’t believe I put it off so long. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

RoosterCogburnJohnWayneAt first, I thought John Wayne was…..well…John Wayne. Then, as the story unfolded, I realised that, actually, yes, it is John Wayne being John Wayne but that’s the whole reason why he’s my Western movie hero. Some fantastic acting. As he had more and more screen time, I noticed that it was more than that. Something different, something grittier, something Oscar-deserving. He took on this role with enough grumpiness and seeming indifference to make it believable yet under it all managing to subtly show a tender side. And, the unintentional comic moments and/or witty lines are perfectly timed – for a second here and there, that is. Then back to pure grump again. Never before had I been aware of small facial expressions like I was here. Absolutely perfect.

The other thing I noticed was that, despite being the legendary man he was (and still is), he never once overshadowed his co-stars. Now that is great artistry.

True-Grit-2Did he win? Yes, third Oscar nomination lucky (2nd nomination for actor, the other in 1950)…in 1970 John Wayne received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (his 3rd nomination had been for directing in 1960). Very, very well deserving. He likewise won a Golden Globe (same role, obviously).

Slightly off-topic, while watching the outlaw at different points I had this feeling of “I know this face” with two of them. I just couldn’t pinpoint who….until the credits rolled and hey! of course! Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. I couldn’t believe it. Keep an eye out for them if you watch this.

So…save post…and…off to watch Jeff Bridges

Gruff and no-nonsense roles require actors who can portray such traits naturally, without seeming “acted”. Jeff Bridges achieves this spot on in the “newer” version. What I appreciate is that he hasn’t tried to “copy” John Wayne‘s role at all. Granted, some of the lines are the same but that’s purely because it is based on a book (by Charles Portis and superb reading if you haven’t yet done so). He breathes life filled with the perfect balance of  “grump” and disillusionment into Rooster Cogburn. But underneath it all, still caring, albeit not obviously so.

His Rooster is the man who is not used to being with anyone else. Who does his own thing, makes his own decisions, fighting his daemons. There is no light relief in this portrayal and had there been, it just wouldn’t have worked. Am I allowed to repeat “Absolutely perfect.” that I used a few paragraphs earlier? Definitely Oscar deserving.

RoosterCogburnJeffBridgesAnd did he win? Unfortunately, in this second nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, he wasn’t as lucky as in the year before when he won for Crazy Heart. Overall, this was his 6th of 7 total nominations.

Having watched these two fantastic movies within 3 days of each other…and I’m not about to compare…do I have a preference? No, I don’t. The two roles are so totally different that they can’t be compared. John Wayne and Jeff Bridges bring us outstanding performances and are equally deserving of their Oscar nominations. Besides, 2010 as opposed to 1969 is a new age of movie making, a new era of actors, a new approach to roles. How could I possibly put them side by side? So, no, absolutely no preference.

Although, I do favour one of the movies over the other, but that is totally besides the point here. And has nothing to do with Rooster Cogburn or the actors playing him.

31-days-option-b2

This is my entry for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen.

For my previous entries, The Sting and The Piano, click here and here.

 

Summer Under the Stars…John Wayne

This is my entry for the 2017 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Journeys in Classic Film.

I was over the moon when I saw John Wayne on this year’s Stars list. My childhood hero. The one who made me fall in love with Westerns from way back when I was a little girl. To this day my absolute favourite genre. And John Wayne still holds a special place in my movie heart.

It isn’t only John Wayne though. No, it is a combination of him and the Super 8 films through which we were introduced. As some of you may know, I never had a television growing up (parents’ choice). But, I did have a whole stack of Super 8s that my parents had rescued from landing on the dump when video cassettes first came out. Amongst those wonderful reels were The War Wagon and Big Jake. Did I love watching those (I know the dialogue by heart – to this day). Had to be a non-school night and some setup was required.  Screen. Projector (maybe lightbulb replacing or un-jamming the film before it melted too much). And then the sheer joy of watching.

To mind always that strawberry-pinkish shirt he wore in The War Wagon. And the running leap onto his horse. He made it look so easy, elegant (in as far as cowboy elegance goes) and effortless. Then came Big Jake. I still have a soft spot for this movie and the colourful lines that come out of tough dad Jacob McCandles’ (John Wayne) mouth. My best was/is when son James, played by real-life son Patrick Wayne, calls him “daddy” to which the no-nonsense answer is “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“. 

We also had McQ  with a much older John Wayne. For me though…cowboy works better than detective. It was only many years later that The Cowboys came my way. Another perfect role for this man as he takes a group of school boys on as hands for a cattle drive. Naturally The Seachers was next on my radar. Thoroughly enjoyed The Comancheros. Hmm…McLintock was different to what I’m used to. And the list goes on.

All I can say is: John Wayne. Cowboy like no other.

 

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?