On Saturday, November 19, John Wayne stars as John T. Chance in the classic 1959 western Rio Bravo, which airs at 10:30 p.m. on TCM. It follows Chance in 1860s Texas, where he and his old deputy are forced to try to keep a deadly monster behind bars long enough for a US Marshal to arrive on the scene and take him away. Such was the film’s significance, and influential director Quentin Tarantino called it his “favorite ‘hangout’ movie,” even claiming he wouldn’t date someone if they didn’t like the movie.
By the time Rio Bravo was released, Wayne was already a huge star in Hollywood, taking on lead roles in the films he starred in. A decade later, he reached the pinnacle of his career, winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1969’s True Grit.
However, this success was not achieved without controversy or occasional hiccups.
In 1935’s Paradise Canyon, Wayne was played in some scenes as his body double by Yakima Canute, who also starred in the film, leading to some viewers’ confusion.
Canute, who received an Honorary Academy Award in 1967 for his accomplishments as a stuntman and for developing safety devices to protect the stuntmen, described having a “tough” fight scene between his character and Wayne’s character in the flick.
During the fight, noted by Michael Moon’s 2001 book John Wayne: The Man Behind the Legend, Canute had to flip his corresponding number over his head, thus actually doubling down with Wayne in the scene.
This saw a camera shot of Canutt crashing through a table – as Wayne’s character – giving viewers a perfect view of the stuntman’s bald spots. Except for Wayne he didn’t have a bald spot.
Canute said, “When they ran the picture, the bald spot was very noticeable, and it got a real chew from John and Paul Malvern, who was the producer. We couldn’t bear to reshoot it, so it came out as it was.”
Wayne was reportedly upset about this, not wanting viewers to think he had a bald spot. Assessing the situation and wanting to end the star, Canutt enlisted the help of a fan to write to complain about it.
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Wayne then punches Canutt through a glass front window, before performing a “football flying at him”, farting the stuntman. Then Wayne said to him, “Here’s a message from your fan in New York.”
While Wayne’s joking relationship with Canute continued, he was hostile toward some other stars, including Hollywood legends Clark Gable and Gene Hackman, according to his daughter Issa.
She said in the 1991 book John Wayne: My Father: “My father called Gable handsome but stupid at least four or five times, and now I wonder if it had anything to do with my father’s friend, John Ford.” During the filming of Mogambo, Ford and Gable repeatedly clashed, and the subsequent feud flared for years.
“In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to the Allies, and supporting their enemies in any way, was expressly prohibited. If Clark Gable confronted John Ford, my father’s code required John Wayne to stand by his old friend.”
She added, “Gene Hackman could never have appeared on screen without my father tinkering with his performance.
“I wish I could tell you why he criticized Hackman so harshly, but he did not go into detail. Although it is only speculation, if my father had lived to see more of his work, I think his view of Mr. Hackman would have changed. At the time, my father described Hackman as worse.” An actor in town. It’s terrible.’”
Rio Bravo airs from 10:30 p.m. on TCM tonight.
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