“You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.” – Dean Martin
I should have posted this back in January:
I’ll get back to my John Wayne Filmography shortly.
dream lover / rick nelson
So WHY do I feel that Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Guns are controversial endorsements for John Wayne?
Because all of them can kill you.
It has to be said however, that in the 40’s and 50’s, all these product(?) were observed very differently than they are today. Smoking and drinking were openly promoted as being not only socially acceptable, but as sophisticated social practices. Although, in Rio Bravo, Dean’s drinking is hardly portrayed as anything cool …
But before I cover John’s Guns, I want to look at Rio Bravo a bit more.
I didn’t used to like Rio Bravo. Now I can’t remember why?
I know it’s not the Best John Wayne Western, but I’d say it’s the Most Popular John Wayne Western. I base this judgement purely upon how often it’s shown on TV – which is Very Often. Almost weekly.
I’ve watched it myself on TV several times. I never plan to, but if it’s on, I often find myself watching it. This would make it somewhat of Classic for me – a movie you can watch over and over.
So what’s the attraction? I’d say it’s the amazing Star Power of John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson – and it’s notable support cast Ward Bond, John Russell, Claude Akins … even Harry Carey Jr. is in there. These folks casually drive this movie in an almost hypnotic and effortless fashion. Good story telling /marvelous Casting.
Howard Hawks of course, knew how to make a Western: Viva Villa (1934), Barbary Coast (1935), The Outlaw (1943), Red River (1948), The Big Sky (1952), Rio Bravo (1959), El Dorado (1967), and Rio Lobo (1970). Some Classics, most are popular and well known. Four feature John Wayne. Hawks knew John’s Star Power would easily carry any movie – even if the movie seemed fairly formula. Guaranteed box office.
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“I hope my family and my friends will be able to say that I was an honest, kind and fairly decent man.”
– John Wayne
“Spectacular as its barbaric passions and savage conquests!”
So … in 1956 John Wayne and Howard Hughes made The Conqueror.
It quickly became one of the most maligned and ridiculed movies in Hollywood history – though some now enjoy it as an entertainment curiosity
– a model of Hollywood big budget excesses.
John deeply regretting his involvement in the film, and agreed that he had been badly miscast.
I have to wonder however, if a lot of the scorn showered upon the movie wasn’t an indirect attack upon John and Howard Hughes personally.
Both were strongly outspoken and controversial individuals of the day with plenty of opponents
just waiting for a chance to knock them out or the saddle – or the sky.
And they got it.
But The Conqueror wasn’t all bad …
The Selling of John Wayne … Smoke … Part 5 / John leaves his mark …
the sound of silence / disturbed
“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
– From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence / 1962
In 1954, John Wayne starred in the ill-fated big budget movie The Conqueror, (RKO Pictures, Howard Hughes Productions) filmed in the Utah desert.
Location: about a hundred miles from a former Nevada nuclear test site and where wind blown radioactivity had supposedly infected the whole area. Legend has it that this resulted in a large number of the film crew and Stars of the movie dying from various cancers. Nobody challenged this story for decades. By that time, the Legend had become Fact and is still being propagated today. So much so that there still several sources – particularly on the Internet – still propagating this myth. It’s so ingrained by now that I can’t imagine it will be dispelled any time soon.
But it’s not hard to see why this myth is so powerful and durable: As Urban Legends go The Conqueror Cancer Legend is one of the best of all time. It’s ingredients are purely fantastical:
– The Top movie Star of the day (and possibly all-time) – Mega Star,
– a bizarre madman genius Movie Mogul Inventor Test Pilot billionaire,
– A beautiful tragic femme fatale Star Actress,
– THE ATOMIC BOMB !!!!!!!!
– a huge, expensive Epic Hollywood production (9 million dollars!!!) that was also a BOMB – about an Historical figure – Mongolian mass murdurer tyrant:
– Deaths – seemingly many people dying horribly from cancer …
You can’t make this stuff up.
So there it was – just waiting to be explored; exploited; exploded.
And it lived up to the Billing.
September 14, 2009 / Was The Movie The Conqueror Really Cursed? A Look At Radiation Paranoia By Michael D. Shaw
Worth a read.
To John Wayne‘s credit, he never bought the bomb theory. He always admitted that his cancers and related illnesses (and eventual death) was directly related to his prolific smoking.
He never copped out.
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.
Comes into us at midnight very clean.
It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands.
It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
– John Wayne
The Selling of John Wayne … Smoke … Part 4
Yup, John Wayne was definitely a very heavy smoker and made several (TV) commercials, magazine ads, billboards, etc – promoting cigarettes – as did a great many other Movie Stars and Celebrities of his time. Today of course, smoking and tobacco products have fallen into disfavor and any such advertising is now banned.
Despite this, there is still some subtle forms of smoking advertising and promotions that still have a viable market – and which capitalize on John’s enduring Iconic Star Power. One such product is cigarette lighters. Zippo lighters almost seem to have an small industry using John’s image.
Smoking still obviously has a certain ‘manly’ appeal to some people and many such John Wayne lighters are hot “Collectibles”. Frankly, it’s evident that ANY John Wayne endorsed product/merchandise will eventually – or immediately – achieve Collector and Memorabilia status.
Plenty more lighters than I show here …
And finally … if you really need to cut down
on your smoking …
… the John Wayne knife lighter.
Available on Amazon.