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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

John Wayne, Western Icon


The Duke


John Wayne legends.filminspector.com


There are few brighter stars in the Hollywood firmament than one John Wayne (born 26 May 1907). If there were any actors who attained greater celebrity than him, they were few and far between. Not only did he play roles and direct some films, John Wayne also came to stand for an ethos, the spirit of a land.

John Wayne is one of the most misunderstood or least understood stars whose names come readily to mind. There are too many misperceptions about Wayne to dispel all at once, but we can hit the high points and perhaps learn something about the man rather than the image.

So, let's take a look at the life of the man we know as John Wayne.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

John Wayne was known by several different names during his life. He was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, and his parents later changed his name to Marion Mitchell Morrison when they decided to name their next son Robert. "John Wayne" was a stage name that was created in his 20s.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne's signed high school picture.

Wayne was a Presbyterian of Scottish, Scots-Irish, Irish, and English ancestry. His grandfather was a Civil War veteran who was still alive for the first years of his life. The family moved to California as part of a large migration of Iowans, encouraged by an advertising campaign in the state touting the wonders of southern California. They settled in Palmdale, then in Glendale.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

Wayne got his nickname "The Duke" from a local fireman in Glendale who noticed that the boy was devoted to his Airdale Terrier named Duke.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com


Wayne liked the nickname. It stuck.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
"The Quiet Man" (1952).

Wayne thus grew up in California and attended Glendale High School, where he starred on the football team.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John Wayne with first wife Josephine Alicia Saenz in 1932.

John Wayne was married three times and had seven children with them. Each wife was of Hispanic descent. Wayne had nothing against Hispanics or Mexicans, as may be believed or said in some quarters; in fact, Wayne owned a large ranch in Mexico where he filmed several of his productions (which no doubt helped him to pay for the ranch's upkeep). However, that does not mean that Wayne got along with each wife every single day of their time together. Wayne had two divorces, and second wife Esperanza tried to shoot him due to jealousy over his supposed affairs.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
The final scene of "The Searchers" (1956), which I and many others consider to be Wayne's finest role. In his finest role, indeed, this is his finest celluloid moment. He is seen grabbing his right arm, which he did as a gesture of respect to the recently deceased Harry Carey, who did that as a trademark. Wayne had co-starred with Carey in his first color film, "Shepherd of the Hills" in 1941, and he remained loyal to the Carey family. A door to another time.

Wayne applied to the US Naval Academy after graduating from high school, but was turned down. It was the first, but not the last, time that he attempted to join the military. His efforts repeatedly were frustrated for reasons out of his control, but some still hold that against him as being somehow at odds with his Hollywood image.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
This is not a still from a movie set. John Wayne was authorized to don military garb during his morale visit to the front lines in Australia in 1943-44.

Wayne wound up at USC and played for the football team, which won a national championship while he was a member. A broken collarbone ultimately ended his athletic career. The team's coach, Howard Jones, arranged for Wayne to be hired by director John Ford and western star Tom Mix to work as a prop boy and occasional extra in exchange for Jones giving Mix tickets to games. This is how Wayne, still known as Marion Morrison, got his start in Hollywood.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
"McLintock!" (1963), here with Maureen O'Hara and directed by Andrew McLaglen..

Wayne's first (uncredited) role was as a guard in period piece "Bardelys the Magnificent" (1926) as part of a "cast of thousands." That film was long believed lost, but a copy (minus one reel) was recently found, and it is in very good condition.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

Wayne worked for the Fox Film Corporation and received credit as "Duke Morrison" in the film "Words and Music" in 1929. His breakthrough role was in "The Big Trail" the following year. Director Raoul Walsh crafted his stage name for that role after some back-and-forth with the studio. Wayne had no input on the decision and did not even know about the discussions.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
With Katherine Hepburn on the set of "Rooster Cogburn" (1975).

Wayne appeared in numerous other films during the 1930s, and his next big breakthrough was in "Stagecoach" (1939), directed by John Ford.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with daughter Aissa.

Wayne was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood by 1941. Like many other top Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart, Wayne wanted to enlist after Pearl Harbor despite being over-age. However, he had contractual obligations and the studio threatened to sue him if he abandoned his contract. Despite the threat, he officially applied to serve in the OSS anyway, but through a chain of mis-adventures outside of Wayne's control it never happened. OSS Commander William Donovan issued Wayne an official OSS Certificate of Service anyway. Many think that Wayne's inability to serve contributed to his later choices of patriotic roles and carefully cultivated image as a patriot.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with son Ethan.

Wayne's career built throughout the war and in the subsequent years, primarily in westerns. He carefully practiced his iconic western drawl and walk, which were not natural to him, much in the manner of later imitators. The hard work paid off when he won his Oscar for the popular western "True Grit" (1969).

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

Wayne battled lung cancer for the last 15 years of his life. It went into remission, but ultimately killed him. Many think that he acquired it due to radioactive fallout from previous atomic bomb testing on the Utah location of his film for Howard Hughes, "The Conqueror" in 1956. Dozens of others from that cast and crew ultimately developed some form of cancer.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

Wayne made his last public appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony held in 1979 and gave a sentimental but hopeful speech.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John Wayne with Ricky Nelson on the set of "Rio Bravo."

Wayne was no choir boy, and engaged in his share of frat-boy antics. He once spent a night in the San Francisco jail for trying to stow away aboard a tramp steamer bound for Hawaii.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with Maureen O'Hara.

Wayne directed two films: "The Alamo" and "The Green Berets." Neither was a particular financial success, though they are considered cult films by some.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with daughter Aissa, circa 1960, photographed at their ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley. Pool house is in the foreground with main residence on the hill.

The Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, asked Wayne to be his vice-presidential candidate in 1968. Wayne, not particularly political despite some controversial statements at times, declined.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with his mother Mary Alberta Brown, known as Molly.

Wayne loved poetry, and one of his favorite poets was Robert Frost ("the path not taken").

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance on the set of "I Love Lucy." He made a very unique television appearance on the show, which then was the most popular on the air, and all he asked as payment was a bottle of Scotch.

Wayne not only did numerous westerns in the 1930s, he actually was the first singing cowboy ("Riders of Destiny" in 1933).

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with a very friendly Steve McQueen.

Wayne won a Southern California Shakespeare Oratory contest for a recital of Cardinal Wolsey's farewell speech from "Henry VIII."

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne on the set of "Red River" (1948).

Wayne's first contract was for $75 per week, which was not bad money during the Great Depression.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with Lee Marvin on the set of "Donovan's Reef" (1963). While those are likely movie bandages, Wayne was injured for real during filming when he crashed through a table, and the incident can be seen in the finished film.

Wayne holds the inflation-adjusted record for the total gross of his 153 films.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne in breakthrough film "Stagecoach" (1939).

Wayne established the precedent for huge payments for cameo roles in pictures with "The Longest Day" (1962), on which he only worked for four days but earned a full salary. He did another cameo a few years later as a Roman Centurion in "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne with Marguerite Churchill on the set of "The Big Trail" (1930).

John Wayne, along with stuntman Yakima Canutt and Robert Bradbury, helped create stunt fighting, where chairs would crash over bad-guys' backs and so forth.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John with brother Robert and their pet Pekingese.

Wayne was skilled with props and knives, so much so that he once gave a demonstration in knife throwing to the New York City Police Department.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

For years, Wayne bred cattle in Arizona, and was one of the most successful breeders in the state. He also owned an estate in Mexico where several of his films were shot.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John with son Patrick Wayne on the set of "North To Alaska" (1960).

While he had a reputation as a rugged man's man, in fact Wayne loved to ballroom dance, and he was quite skilled at it.


John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

Wayne owned a large yacht ("Wild Goose"), where he spent much of his free time and which was used as a location for several films. It was a converted US Navy Yard Mine Sweeper and was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 2011. It remains in use today for dinner cruises out of Newport Beach, California.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John with Aissa in San Fernando.

Wayne was a skilled boxer in the 1920s who fought under the name Duke Morrison and fought top contenders in California and Nevada. He was the great-uncle of top prizefighter Tommy Morrison, who fought under the nickname "The Duke."

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John Wayne receiving his Academy Award, presented by Barbra Streisand.

Duke once portrayed his own father, a pharmacist, in "In Old California."

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
Wayne in the final scene of his final film, "The Shootist" (1976). Perhaps the best exit in film history.

Wayne's children (with Pilar Wayne) were Aissa Wayne, Ethan Wayne and Marisa Wayne. His children with Josephine Wayne were Michael Wayne, Patrick Wayne, Toni Wayne and Melinda Wayne. Many of them are still living, and several entered the film business and did quite well.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com
John Wayne makes his farewell speech at the 1979 Academy Awards. He died a few months later. Apparently in tremendous pain, he never showed it, coming quickly down a long stairway with a bounce in his step.

Wayne's production company was called "Batjac," which was mis-spelled by his secretary (it was supposed to be called "Batjak" after a company in Wayne's film "Wake of the Red Witch"). Wayne decided to spare the secretary's feelings and kept the name as she typed it.

John Wayne legends.filminspector.com

John Wayne still holds the record for the actor with the most leading parts, at 142, and in all but 11 of his films he was the lead.





2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Carole Lombard, Screwball Screen Legend

Star of the Golden Age


Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole Lombard (born 6 October 1908) was one of the top stars of the 1930s. In fact, she was the highest-paid star in Hollywood for a while. She was a lovely, gifted actress who could do romance, drama and comedy. While her name has become associated with tragedy due to her untimely passing at age 33, during her life she was a prototype comedienne.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole Lombard for Dynamite, 1929.

In fact, Lucille Ball, then a serious dramatic actress, later became the world's favorite female screwball comic after claiming that Lombard came to her in a dream and told her to take "I Love Lucy."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com


Aside from her acting, one of Carole's greatest talents was taking some of the most sophisticated glamour photos ever create in Hollywood, before or since. Some would say that she was the original glamour girl. However, Carole was a simple girl at heart who had few pretensions about glamour or Tinseltown.

Oh, and she was married to that Clark Gable guy.

Let's take a tour of the life of the fabulous Carole Lombard.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole's original name was Jane Alice Peters, and she was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole moved to Los Angeles in 1914 after her parents separated. She lived near Venice Boulevard.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole starred in some of the top screwball comedies of the 1930s, most notably "My Man Godfrey." In all, she starred in 55 films, beginning in 1921.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
This and the next photo, apparently taken on the same set and quite possibly on the same day, show the two extremely different sides of Carole Lombard.

Carole was second cousin of legendary director Howard Hawks ("Sergeant York"). However, she got into the film industry on her own when director Allan Dwan chose her for a role in "A Perfect Crime" (1921).

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Not long after, Carole signed a contract with Fox Film Corporation at age 16. She was dropped by Fox after she was in a 1925 car accident that affected her appearance.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole kept working at bit parts, and finally got another contract, this time with Paramount, in 1930.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

While Carole was in many films as a leading lady in the early 1930s, she did not become a true top star until "Twentieth Century" in 1934. It was directed by... Howard Hawks.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

"Twentieth Century" was a classic screwball comedy, and that became Carole's forte. In fact, her very last film released in 1942, "To Be Or Not To Be," also was a screwball comedy.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole was a busy girl in 1932, starring in five films. The most significant was "No Man of Her Own," a romantic comedy that starred Clark Gable. It was the only time Gable and Lombard ever appeared on screen together, and it has become a cult clsssic due to its highly suggestive scenes.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole was married to actor William Powell while working with Gable, who reportedly did not impress her. She claimed that she had a hard time keeping a straight face while working with him, and after the production she sent him a canned ham to show what she thought of him.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

After her divorce from Powell and the death of another fiancé, singer Russ Columbo, in a tragic accident in 1934, she changed her mind about Gable and accepted his proposal.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
As shown by Carole's prominence in this poster, she already was considered a hot property by 1927.

Gable and Lombard's actual courtship had its share of similarities to the comic nature of "No Man Of Her Own." Shortly before they were involved, Carole reportedly read the 1936 book "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell. Carole saw herself playing the lead along with Gable and sent him a copy. She attached to it a note reading "Let's do it!" Gable assumed she was referring to something else associated with that phrase and called Carole for a date. When the misunderstanding was quickly cleared up, he refused to even consider starring with her, and kept the copy of the book she had given him thereafter in his bathroom. Ironically, he later did appear as the lead in the film (reportedly to get the funds to pay for the divorce that enabled him to marry Carole), but Carole failed to get the part of Scarlett O'Hara after a legendary casting process. In fact, Gable and Lombard eloped while Gable was in the middle of filming it.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole Lombard and Clarke Gable honeymooned at the Barbee Hotel on the Barbee chain of lakes in Kosciusko County, Indiana. Why Indiana? Carole's home state.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
"No Man Of Her Own" (1932) with Gable and Lombard. This particular shot promoted the founding of Hollywood's League of Decency, the "Hayes Commission."

Hollywood before 1934 was extremely liberal. Bad guys sometimes prevailed in the cinema, and there was an amazing amount of sexual suggestion and provocative situations. All this changed due to the Hayes Commission in 1934, and the Hayes Commission was instigated by the openly romantic flirtations and "hot love scenes" (as she called them) betwixt Carole and Gable in "No Man Of Her Own."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole did not need to push the edge to be successful, though. As a mark of Carole's versatility, she even starred in a horror film, "Supernatural," in 1936.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole earned an Academy Award nomination for "My Man Godfrey" in 1936.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole arranged to work with Alfred Hitchcock in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (1941). It was a huge success and one of Hitchcock's first jobs in Hollywood. He later became famous for directing pretty young blondes in starring roles, and Lombard was the first.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Gable and Lombard only came to realize their attraction after they met again at a party in 1936. The pair eloped and married in Kingman, Arizona on 29 March 1939, then bought an estate in Encino, California.
Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole Lombard, Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty, by Edwin Bower Hesser (1928).

Gable had difficulty arranging the marriage. He was married to another woman, Rhea Langham, and she refused to grant him a divorce. Finally, she accepted a "settlement" of $500k.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Gable and Lombard never had any children, as Carole suffered two miscarriages.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Gable/Lombard, Shirley Temple, Melvyn Douglas and Charles Laughton in the back - 1941 war benefit.

Lombard was an adherent of the Bahá'í Faith.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole at the racetrack.

Carole starred with two other iconic legends in 1939, Cary Grant in "In Name Only" and Jimmy Stewart in "Made For Each Other." Neither could match the film that Gable appeared in that year, however: "Gone With The Wind."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Ernst Lubitsch was Lombard's favorite comedy director, and she decided to appear in his film "To Be Or Not To Be" with Jack Benny. She received top billing. The film was her last, and it was not released until after her death.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

"Personally, I resent being tagged ‘glamour girl.’ It’s such an absurd, extravagant label. It implies so much that I’m not." - Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

"I enjoy this country. I like the parks and the highways and the good schools and everything that this government does. After all, every cent anybody pays in taxes is spent to benefit him. I don't need $465,000 a year for myself, so why not give what I don't need to the government for improvements of the country. There's no better place to spend it."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole on why she wouldn't work with Orson Welles, the "boy wonder of Hollywood":
"I can't win working with Welles. If the picture's a huge hit, he'll get the credit and, if it's a flop, I'll be blamed".
Accordingly, Carole turned down a project that Welles had pitched to her, "Smiler With A Knife," which was never made. She made "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" instead, and he dropped his proposed project and instead made "Citizen Kane."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Carole Lombard's philosophy:
"I live by a man's code, designed to fit a man's world, yet at the same time I never forget that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

"I think marriage is dangerous. The idea of two people trying to possess each other is wrong. I don't think the flare of love lasts. Your mind rather than your emotions must answer for the success of matrimony. It must be friendship -- a calm companionship which can last through the years."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Another awesome shot of Carole Lombard with William Powell, to whom she was married at the time. The two stayed close friends after their divorce and, as any Old Hollywood fan probably knows, starred in one of the greatest screwball comedies of all time together – ‘My Man Godfrey’.

While Carole and William Powell's marriage did not last, she respected him highly and worked with him again years after their divorce. She said that Powell "is the only intelligent actor I've ever met."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com


While Carole married and dated big stars, she was known for being friendly with the crew on her movie sets. In fact, unlike big stars who then had dressing rooms and today have huge trailers, Carole didn't even have a dressing room on any of her films though she easily could have requested one.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole at Christmas during the 1920s.

Carole's portrayal of scatter-brained society girls in the 1930s led to the creation of the terms "dumb blonde" and "she's so blonde."

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole Lombard by Eugene Robert Richee.

Carole almost worked with Charlie Chaplin in "The Gold Rush" (1925), which would have been a major breakthrough, but her screen test did not win her the role.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Twenty year old Carole Lombard in Show Folks, 1928.

While Gable and Lombard married in Arizona and honeymooned in Indiana, legend has it that they spent their wedding night in William Randolph Hearst's castle in San Simeon.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole Lombard at a party at the home of former co-star Ricardo Cortez on her right. Two other former co-stars hover: Cary Grant and Clark Gable. (This is before her involvement with Gable). 

Carole's dog was a dachshund named Commissioner. The dog reportedly did not like him until Carole's death, then grew fond of Gable.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Carole Lombard in "To be or Not to be" 1942. C. Lombard's costumes by Irene.

Carole Lombard raised over $2 million in war-bonds in ONE day. After her last event, she was in a plane crash shortly after taking off from Las Vegas on a military transport. Pieces of the wreckage still litter the side of mountain that the plane hit to this day.

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com

Her last words to the public before leaving on a fund-raising flight for the war effort, January 15, 1942:
"Before I say goodbye to you all, come on - join me in a big cheer - 'V for Victory!'"

Carole Lombard legends.filminspector.com
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in No Man Of Her Own (1932).








2015