Posts Tagged ‘Maureen O’Hara’

The Star: John Wayne, The Director: John Ford for the Classic Symbiotic Collaborations Blogathon

When Theresa Brown, the wonderful blogger behind CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch announced that she’d be hosting a blogathon looking at famous actors or actresses and the influential directors that they worked with to make movie magic, I knew I wanted to participate.  As I scanned the Star/Director pairs classic movie bloggers were submitting, I noticed that one pair was missing,  so I decided to sign up and write about those two:


John Wayne and John Ford

These two men, powerhouses in their chosen careers, had a  complicated relationship that I believe stems from their childhoods.   Digging first into Wayne’s, most film buffs know that Wayne was named at birth Marion Robert Morrison, in Winterset, Iowa, 1909.  His father, Clyde, was a kind man with a reputation of being extremely nice to all he met.  Contrasted with a gentle father was Wayne’s mother, Mary-nicknamed Molly- who was harsh. Harsh, in that she wanted perfection, openly doted on her younger son, Robert-she actually took away Marion’s middle name in order to name her second son Robert.   Who does that???  Anyhow, she was not a loving or kind person and didn’t hesitate to disparage her husband in front of their two sons.  Clyde was a pharmacist but wasn’t good at keeping any kind of steady job.  Employment failures in Iowa led to a farming venture in California.  Clyde’s father owned some land in Palmdale and he asked Clyde to move there and farm it.  The Morrison’s went and  lived in poverty while trying to make the farm work.  After that venture proved disastrous, the family moved to Glendale.  Young Marion excelled at school academically and athletically.  His parents’ eventually divorced with Molly taking Robert to live with her in Long Beach.  Marion chose to remain in Glendale with Clyde.  Interesting family dynamics ensued as the two Morrison boys grew into adulthood, Marion was a lot more driven to succeed, which he inherited from his mother, Molly.  Younger brother Robert was a lot more laidback and lacked ambition, which he inherited from his father, Clyde.  Years later, Marion, now known as John Wayne, allowed that his father was, “…the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” 1       The conflicting emotions, of not feeling loved by the mother, never being able to please her, and being distressed by the father’s lack of provision for the family stayed with John Wayne all of his life and I believe caused him to look for a “Father Figure” as he shaped and pursued his acting career.

Enter John Ford.   I read a biograpy on John Ford over a year ago-the man was an enigma to me.  He grew up in Portland, Maine, his parents were Irish immigrants to the U.S., and Ford was 1 of 11 children.  He did fine in school but excelled on the highschool football team-a common factor he and Wayne shared.  His older brother, Francis, a vaudvillian, made it to Hollywood and was a successful silent film actor.  Younger brother John decided to follow Francis and ultimately became an excellent director, beginning in the movie business as a stuntman, propman, handyman, stand-in for his brother, assistant, and finally, director.  I found Ford an enigma as he could be harsh and cold to those he worked with, with his wife and kids, and yet create such tender-hearted moments in his films.

Football, as it turns out, is how Wayne and Ford first met.  Young Marion Morrison won a football scholarship to attend University of Southern California-USC.  The coach at USC, Howard Jones, knew some of his players needed money to survive on as the scholarship didn’t pay for all that a college education would cost in 1925.  One of Coach Jones’s friends worked at the Fox Studio and the friend agreed to ask silent film actor, Tom Mix, to get part-time jobs at the studio lot for the USC football players.  In 1926, Marion was hired to be a goose shepherd on John Ford’s silent film, Mother Machree.  The film had several scenes where geese were shown walking around a farm.  Morrison’s job was to keep the geese in a penned area so they’d be ready for their scenes.  One day, according to Morrison, he heard a voice yell at him, “Hey, gooseherder!”  It was John Ford.  Ford continued, “You’re one of Howard Jones’s bright boys?”  Morrison replied, “Yes.”  Ford went on, “And you call yourself a football player?”  Morrison got tongue-tied, “I don’t…mean…well…”   Ford,”You’re a guard, eh?  Let’s see you get down in position.”  With Ford and his assistants watching, Morrison got into the 3 point stance and then Ford kicked Morrison’s hand out from under him causing the 19 year old to fall on his face.  “And you call yourself a guard.  I’ll bet you couldn’t even take me out.”  Morrison got up and said, “I’d like to try.”  Ford agreed and trotted out 20 yards away, then ran at Morrison who stuck his leg straight out, hitting Ford in the chest and knocking him down.  Ford took it well, landing on the ground and laughing, which was a signal for his assistants to laugh, and Morrison joined in too.  That began Wayne and Ford’s  association and friendship. 2

To young Morrison,who absorbed a lot when on a movie set,  Ford was a man  in complete command.  He made decisions, decisive ones,  and he didn’t back down from his decisions.  In effect being the father figure Morrison probably would have liked to have had, despite the niceness that was in Clyde Morrison.

In the summer of 1927, Morrison injured his shoulder during some horseplay in the Pacific Ocean.  The injury caused him to lose his scholarship, so dropping out of USC, the young man decided to get work at the movie studios, full time work.  Being a prop man was his first job and then he also got some bit parts to play in some films.

In 1929, Raoul Walsh, movie director, wanted to make a Western epic and found his chance in The Big Trail.  He had spied Morrison moving a table for a scene set-up on the studio lot and decided he wanted  to screen test the prop man to possibly play the male lead.  Morrison passed the screentest and got the part.  That’s when his name changed to John Wayne.  The Big Trail was hyped in a big way by Fox Studio, as was their new star, John Wayne.  Sadly, the film flopped and Wayne’s fledgling career ended up at poverty row studios, making a lot of B movie westerns.  Wayne would often go to “Pappy”, his  nickname for John Ford, and beg him to put him in one of Ford’s films.  Ford would reassure Wayne that one day, the right script would come along, and then he’d put Wayne in that film.  After 10 years, the right picture finally came along: Stagecoach.

stagecoach movie poster

Coincidentally, while researching for this blogathon, Turner Classic Movies came through like a champ and aired Stagecoach! I tivoed it and watched it again, recently.  I was struck by the amount of shots Ford put on just Wayne’s face.  That moment when we first meet Wayne’s character, Ringo Kid, has become a classic scene and rightly so.  With Ringo trudging across the desert carrying his saddle, standing there strong and twirling his rifle, as the Stagecoach approaches him, Ford zoomed the camera in right at Wayne’s figure then face-a star was born in that shot.  Katharine Hepburn said that George Cukor helped to make her a star in her first movie, A Bill of Divorcement, due to how her character was filmed in her introductory scenes.  I concur, that that was what Ford did with Wayne’s introductory shot in Stagecoach.  Here’s a link to that iconic movie, via Youtube; at the 18:35 minute mark, is Ringo’s entrance into the plot.  Also watch Wayne’s face as one minute he’s laughing with the doc at remembering how the doc helped his little brother’s broken arm and then the change to sorrow when he remembers that the little brother died when someone shot him.  Also  notice Wayne’s face as he watches Claire Trevor’s character hold a newborn baby.  Those ranges in emotions tell me that Ford knew what he wanted his actor to convey in those moments and Wayne delivered excellently.

John Wayne, in the famous shot that introduced him to a wider American audience

John Wayne, in the famous shot that introduced him to a wider American audience

Stagecoach was box office gold and it led to more Ford/Wayne collaborations through the years: 1940’s The Long Voyage Home, 1945’s They Were Expendable, 1948’s Fort Apache,  1948’s 3 Godfathers, 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1950’s Rio Grande, 1952’s The Quiet Man, 1956’s The Searchers, 1957’s The Wings of Eagles, 1959’s The Horse Soldiers, 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962’s How the West Was Won, and 1963’s Donovan’s Reef.

In the making of Stagecoach, Claire Trevor shared that one of the first scenes shot was when her character, Dallas, receives a marriage proposal from Wayne’s Ringo.  Ringo is a naive character as he doesn’t realize Dallas is a prostitute…he thinks he’s the one being shunned by the stagecoach passengers because he’s a prison escapee.  When they were shooting the scene, Ford kept yelling at Wayne.  He told Wayne to stop moving his mouth so much, that when one acts, one shows it in one’s eyes, not in one’s mouth!  Director Allan Dwan also said that,”Duke(Morrison’s childhood nickname that most people who worked with him in Hollywood called him)was just a stick of wood when he came away from USC…Jack(Ford) gave him character.” 3

Actor Tim Holt, who played the minor part of a young Calvary officer in Stagecoach, got mad at Ford for always picking on Duke during the filming.  He actually yelled at Ford to stop treating Duke in such a bad manner.  Actresses  Anna Lee, Maureen O’Hara, and actor Harry Carey Jr., all said pretty much the same thing, that on a Ford film, if Ford liked you, you got picked on and if Ford ignored you, that meant he didn’t like you.  Ford let Holt know that he had to be hard on Duke in order to “shock” him out of his complacent acting habits that he had picked up from making all of those poverty row B Westerns.  Ford also told actress Louise Platt, who played Mrs. Mallory in Stagecoach, that Wayne would be,”the biggest star ever…because he is the perfect Everyman.”4

What did Ford benefit from having John Wayne star is so many of his movies?  The obvious benefit was box office profits.  Having John Wayne star in one’s movie guaranteed audiences would pay money and see the films.  John Ford  helped create the John Wayne persona, I think modeling in his own mind the perfect man, and I think it was a character Ford wished he could really be, but  couldn’t attain.

Be sure to visit Theresa’s blog at CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch to read all of the wonderful blogs in this very interesting blogathon!!!

Resources:  John Wayne: The Life and Legend   by Scott Eyman   Simon and Schuster  Copyright April, 2014.  Footnotes: 1-P. 18.   2-Pp. 36-37.  3-P. 44.  4-P. 96.

Searching for John Ford: A Life by Joseph McBride   St. Martin’s Griffin  Copyright June 23rd, 2001.

I’ll close out this post with some pictures of Wayne and Ford and others, from the sets of some of their collaborative films.

Wayne, Ford, and James Stewart in a fun shot from the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Wayne, Ford, and James Stewart in a fun shot from the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Ford giving Wayne some direction in The Horse Soldiers

Ford giving Wayne some direction in The Horse Soldiers

Ford watching as Wayne drags Maureen O'Hara home in The Quiet Man

Ford watching as Wayne drags Maureen O’Hara home in The Quiet Man

Another iconic film shot, Ford centering Wayne's character Ethan Edwards at the end of The Searchers

Another iconic film shot, Ford centering Wayne’s character Ethan Edwards at the end of The Searchers, always on the outside, looking in.



My Classic Movie Pick: The Quiet Man

Since it will soon be St. Patrick’s Day, I thought my classic film should in some way highlight Ireland, and my pick does just that, 1952’s Republic Pictures  technicolor classic, The Quiet Man.   The first time I saw  The Quiet Man  was when  my late father-in-law rented it.   I was in high school at the time and it was a Saturday afternoon which I was spending  at my future husband’s family home.  His dad loved movies and knew a lot about actors, actresses, good plots, good directors, and he assured me and his son that this was a wonderful movie.  The Quiet Man stars John Wayne, but it isn’t Wayne in a  Western or a War picture.  The Quiet Man is really  a simple tale, about an ex-boxer from Pittsburgh, PA wanting to go back to the land of his ancestors and put down some roots in order to live a more quiet existence.

A gorgeous view of Ireland!

A gorgeous scene  of Ireland.

Wayne's character, Sean Thornton, arriving at the depot nearest his parents' birthplace.

Wayne’s character, Sean Thornton, arriving at the depot nearest his parents’ birthplace.

Michaeleen (Barry Fitzgerald) giving Thornton a ride to Innisfree.

Michaeleen (Barry Fitzgerald) giving Thornton a ride to Innisfree.

Sean Thornton( John Wayne) arrives at the nearest train depot just a few miles away from the town of Innisfree, birthplace of his parents, grandparents, and various other ancestors.  He wants to buy the family’s ancestral home, a quaint cottage on a good piece of land, known as “White-o-Morn”.  After some confusing directions given to him by the  locals, Michaeleen Oge Flynn ( Barry Fitzgerald) pulls up in his cart, hops on over to Thornton, and tells him that he can drive him to Innisfree.  Thornton gladly accepts and soon he and Flynn have become fast friends, and Flynn remembers Thornton’s family before his parents sailed away to America.  As soon as Flynn gets Thornton to Innisfree, Thornton wants to get out of the cart and stretch his legs and to have a smoke.   As he is gazing around at the countryside, he sees a flock of sheep with the most beautiful shepherdess attending  them.  It is love at first sight for Thornton.

Mary Kate Danagher, love interest for Sean Thornton, played by Maureen O'Hara.

Mary Kate Danagher, love interest for Sean Thornton, played by Maureen O’Hara.

Thornton soon has a couple of problems on his hands in this new community.  One, he has outbid the Squire “Red” Will Danagher in buying the family homestead.  The Squire,( played by Victor McLaglen), is a bully and has a bad temper, especially at a “Yank” who would dare to buy land that is adjacent to his spread of property.  Second, Thornton has unknowingly fallen in love with Mary Kate Danagher, the Squire’s sister.  The Squire is outraged that the “Yank” wants to marry his sister and forbids the courtship to begin.   It is at this point that some minor characters in the film come up with a trick to play on the Squire, in hopes of convincing him to let Thornton court his sister.  The minor characters are the priest, Father Lonergan(Ward Bond), Rev. Playfair(Arthur Shields), and Mrs. Playfair(Eileen Crowe).  The trio knows that the Squire is actually in love with the widow Tillane(Mildred Natwick), so they play on his fear of never marrying the kind widow.   They tell the Squire that what woman would want to be his wife when a woman already lives in his home cooking and cleaning and overseeing things, that woman being his sister Mary Kate.  At the annual horse race, they further trick the Squire into thinking that since he forbid Thornton from courting his sister that the “Yank” was now interested in courting the widow!  Soon the Squire gives his permission for the “Yank” to court his sister.

The Squire (Victor McLaglen) letting the courting of his sister begin.

The Squire (Victor McLaglen) letting the courting of his sister begin.

Squire "Red" Will Danagher (Victor MacLaglen)

Squire “Red” Will Danagher (Victor McLaglen)

Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick)

Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick)

Reverend Playfair(Arthur Shields).

Reverend Playfair(Arthur Shields)

Father Lonargen (Ward Bond)

Father Lonergan (Ward Bond)

The wedding happens and at the reception, the Squire decides to propose to the Widow Tillane in front of all the gathered guests.  The widow is embarrassed and shocked that the Squire would do such a thing and she turns him down.   That sets the Squire’s temper blazing.  He finds out that he was tricked into letting his sister be courted by Father Lonergen and Reverand and Mrs. Playfair.   In his anger he denies Mary Kate her dowry, which includes lovely furnishings, fine china, a piano, and money; items  which she was planning on bringing with her into the marriage.  Thornton tries to explain to Mary Kate that he loves her and doesn’t care about that other stuff, but she does, so much so, that she gets into a fierce argument at the couple’s new home and explains that she’ll cook and clean but not be a real wife for Thornton until she has all her things about her in her own home.  She also accuses her new husband of being a coward for not getting into a physical fight with her brother over her dowry.   Thornton doesn’t want to fight anyone physically anymore, and the Reverend Playfair, a boxing fan, knows the reason why Thornton is so reluctant to fight, and it is also the reason why Thornton has left America.  In his last match under his fight name, “Trooper Thorn”, he accidentally killed his opponent.  From that moment on, Thornton retired from boxing and vowed to not fight anymore.

Soon after the sad wedding reception has passed, folks in Innisfree who like the “Yank” convince the Squire to let Mary Kate have her things about her, and all but the money is brought to the newlyweds’ cottage.  Mary Kate is happy, and after confessing  to Father Lonargen how she has been treating her husband, Mary Kate allows herself to truly be Thornton’s wife, but soon she  is nagging her husband again to confront her brother about the money he has withheld from her.  Thornton refuses, and the next morning before Thornton has risen, Mary Kate has packed a bag and run off to the train station, as she is too embarrassed by his inaction to get her money for her from her brother.  Thornton awakes, realizes where she has probably gone to, and makes his way to the train depot.  The townsfolk of Innisfree see the “Yank” storming off to the depot and decide to follow him.  He finds his wife,  drags her off the train, and forces her to walk the 5 miles back to Innisfree and to her brother’s home.  Thornton then confronts the Squire and demands that he give them Mary Kate’s money.  The Squire refuses and Thornton then tells him to take back his sister.  The Squire relents and hands over Mary Kate’s money and together she and Thornton throw it into the fire.  Mary Kate really didn’t care about the money.  She wanted  to know that  her husband would stand up for her, that he truly loved her.   As the townsfolk watch, the Squire and the “Yank” have a brawl,  punching each other all over the countryside and town.  They manage to visit a pub, have a drink, and then brawl some more.  The end result is that all negative feelings the Squire had for the “Yank” are now gone and they call a truce, to try and be friends.    The film ends with the Squire and the widow beginning their courtship, and Mary Kate and Thornton happy in their love for one another.

The Quiet Man is a fun film to watch.  It  contains elements of drama, comedy, and romance.  The viewer really cares about what is going to happen to the characters.  The movie is beautiful to look at and most of the outdoor scenes were shot  on location in Ireland.  The technicolor shows the countryside to it’s full advantage.  The acting  is excellent, from the stars to the supporting character actors.  The Quiet Man was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-Victor McLaglen, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It did win the Academy Award for Best Director-John Ford, and Best Cinematography-Winton C. Hotch, and Archie Stout.

The Quiet Man is available at Amazon, it can be requested through Netflix, and on Sunday, March 17th at 8:30 p.m., CST, it will air on Turner Classic Movies.  TQMJohn Wayne and Maureen O'Hara

              Movie poster 1                   

A movie poster for The Quiet Man in Spanish.

A movie poster for The Quiet Man in Spanish.