Over the past few weeks, we’ve scoured the archives to feature past articles from The John Wayne Official Collector’s Edition in anticipation of Volume 27’s release. This week, we’re offering you an exclusive glimpse into the newest installment with this article excerpt straight from Volume 27, Duke’s Most Iconic Movie Moments. Don’t forget to pick up your copy on newsstands nationwide Tuesday, or get it delivered straight to your door here.
Featured in The John Wayne Official Collector’s Edition, Volume 27
These visionaries helmed John Wayne’s most incredible classics and formed friendships with the legend along the way.
An astoundingly prolific filmmaker, John Ford was Duke’s most frequent collaborator. The bespectacled, pipe-puffing director is responsible for giving moviegoers their first glimpse of John Wayne when he began including the trusty propman as an extra in films like Salute (1929). And once Ford gave Duke the chance to star in his 1939 Western Stagecoach, the trajectory of both their careers would change forever. The two remained creative counterparts and close friends for decades to come, churning out classics including She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956) and Donovan’s Reef (1963).
When he was given the green light to make his epic Western The Big Trail (1930), Raoul Walsh told Fox Film Corporation he didn’t want a polished actor to play the lead of Breck Coleman, but rather a fresh face that could “act natural.” The director would find just the inexperienced yet impressive presence he was seeking when, on a visit to the set of John Ford’s Born Reckless, he met a prop man named Marion “Duke” Morrison. The young Duke prove the perfect fit for the role, but there was only one problem: his name. Aiming to give the Hollywood newcomer a moniker that would suit his inevitable rise to the top of Western cinema, Walsh helped christen his star “John Wayne.” Duke would work with Walsh only once more in 1940’s Dark Command, but he would always have the director to thank for his first chance to truly shine.
In the assortment of films he made with John Wayne front and center, Howard Hawks directed Duke through some of the actor’s most singular roles. Their first collaboration would be for the 1948 classic Red River, in which the director had John Wayne abandon the tried-and-true hero role he was known to try his hand at playing a legit villain. The risky decision paid off for Hawks, and the two would make magic together again with Rio Bravo in 1959, which saw John Wayne return to form as the morally sound, tough Sheriff John T. Chance. Before he’d fully allow Duke to slip back into the familiar feel of a cowboy hat with later hits El Dorado (1967) and Rio Labo (1970), though, Hawks took the star out of this comfort zone one more time by having him play a big game hunter exploring Africa in 1962’s Hatari!
Early in John Wayne’s career, he took the role of a young man out for revenge in the Henry Hathaway film The Shepherd of the Hills (1941). Though the two would not work together again for several years, their introduction via that film would later pay dividends. Come the 1960s, Hathaway would put Duke at the center of his lens again for fan favorites North to Alaska (1960) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) leading up to their ultimate collaboration, 1969’s True Grit. With Hathaway at the helm, John Wayne was able to turn in the performance of his career as Rooster Cogburn and finally, after decades of excellence, score Oscar gold.