Posts Tagged ‘Tim Holt’

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:

   symbiotic-collaborations-ford-ii

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: His Kind of Woman

Film Noir is a genre of movies that usually have the feelings  of negativity, sadness, pessimism, and danger.    The French coined the phrase to describe American detective stories made in the 1940s-1950s.  I like a good Film Noir, with it’s hero working against the odds to figure out who the baddies are, often dealing  with a beautiful femme fatale out for her own preservation and, and lots of  interesting  side characters who add to the plots.  My movie pick, His Kind of Woman is a Film Noir, but with a difference.  It has  some comedy thrown in for an unusual mix, and the comedy is supplied by Vincent Price, the King of Horror films!

His Kind of Woman poster 1

Robert Mitchum is the hero of this movie.  He is Dan Milner,  a down on his luck gambler.  He’s been approached to live in Mexico for 1 year, and  he’ll be paid $50,000 for his troubles, and is given $20,000 to start his journey.   Dan is curious as to who wants him to live in Mexico for a year, thinking it is a pretty weird request.  Since he’s currently broke, he decides to do as he’s been asked, and takes a flight to his first stop, Nogales, Mexico.  While waiting in the airport bar for his next flight, Dan is happy to listen to a beautiful singer, Lenore Brent(Jane Russell).  Lenore seems irritated by Dan’s attention and  manages to keep him at arms length.   Dan is  delighted to find out that Lenore will  be flying on the same plane with him to his final destination, Morro’s Lodge, in the Baja region.  Lenore tells Dan that  she is an heiress and a singer and that he doesn’t interest her as she has a “friend” she’s meeting at Morro’s.His Kind of Woman Mitchum and Russell have chemistry

Once at Morro’s, Dan figures out who Lenore’s friend is, movie actor Mark Cardigan(Vincent Price).  Price is an absolute joy to watch in this movie.  He is excellent in his  portrayal of  a hammy, full-of-himself actor who just happens to be a great hunter.  Later on in the movie, he saves Dan’s bacon when the bad guy’s henchmen show up to kill Dan.  Cardigan also has romance troubles, as his wife shows up at Morro’s to tell him that she doesn’t want a divorce.  His agent has also come along to tell Cardigan that a divorce could give him negative views in the public’s opinion.  Cardigan is adamant at keeping a positive image so he breaks things off with Lenore.  Lenore confesses to Dan that she’s not really an heiress but she is a singer, and she  thought a rich husband would give her the ticket to the good life.   Dan is quite ready to show Lenore that a rich husband isn’t the be all and end all of life.

Cardigan telling Dan about his love of hunting

Cardigan telling Dan about his love of hunting

The main bad guy in the movie is Nick Ferraro(Raymond Burr-a far cry from his Perry Mason and Ironside days!)  Ferraro is a gangster who had been deported 4 years before.  Living in Italy, he was getting worried about his monetary holdings still in the U.S. and came up with a crazy plot to get back into America: find a guy who is the same height and weight as himself, a guy who is a loner without a family, and with the help of a plastic surgeon, kill the loner guy and have his face surgically put upon Ferraro’s face!

The baddies trying to inject Dan with a drug

The baddies trying to inject Dan with a drug

Cardigan deciding he can help Dan

Cardigan deciding he can help Dan

This brings about Bill Lusk(Tim Holt) who is able to inform that he is an undercover agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  He tells Dan about Ferraro and that the Service knows the Ferraro is itching to get back into the country and that they think he’d try to disguise himself in some way and that Dan may have been brought to Morro’s to be the victim of Ferraro’s plans.

Bill Lusk telling Dan what he knows about Ferraro

Bill Lusk telling Dan what he knows about Ferraro

There is a minor subplot of an unhappy bride on her honeymoon watching her new husband gambling away their money to a vacationing banker, Myron Winton(Jim Backus-Mr. Thurston Howell III himself!!) Dan steps in and helps the husband regain his lost money and gives the newlyweds  advice to  stay away from the gambling tables.

Helping the Newlyweds

Helping the Newlyweds

His Kind of Woman was directed by John Farrow, written by Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard, and produced by Robert Sparks.  It was distributed by RKO Studios, but Howard Hughes, who had taken over the running of RKO in 1948, meddled in the production of His Kind of Woman and after Farrow’s work was done, Hughes had director Richard Fleischer re-direct many scenes in the movie!  The film was finished in 1950 but sat on a shelf until it’s release in August of 1951.  Despite Hughes’s fiddling with the film, it was a box office hit for RKO.   His Kind of Woman is available at Amazon.  It is available as a single dvd or in a dvd set with 3 other Film Noirs.

With Russell and Mitchum as the movie’s center, a puzzle of a plot, action, and the fun that Vincent Price brings to his role, His Kind of Woman is an unusual Film Noir, worth a viewing, and it’s one of my favorites.  Here’s a trailer that audiences would have seen in 1951 for advertising purposes for His Kind of Woman.

His Kind of Woman movie poster 2