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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Wayne Back On The Strenuous Job

 


Real and Reel Life Survival Boost The Sons of Katie Elder


Behind-scene accounts of this are harrowing, John Wayne back at work too soon after having a lung out and not fully recovered. Also weight gain and he was weak as a kitten. The location (high-altitude Mexico) would challenge breathing of a fit man, let alone one just off a hospital bed. There was pressure to perform, however, and prove to the world that Big Duke was back in harness. The Wayne image had become his prison by now. Public expectation left little space to convalesce. There was also Hal Wallis who had waited and put off the project till Wayne got reasonably well. Latter owned a piece of Katie Elder with Wallis and the producer's partner, Joseph Hazen. Better to watch and enjoy The Sons Of Katie Elder before you read about a sick man plunged into freezing water, doing stunts he shouldn't have, then retreat to oxygen masks soon as cameras switched off. Makes stardom seem pretty unenviable.



The Sons of Katie Elder
was hung with a Welcome Back, Duke sign by Paramount. Everyone who could read or had a television knew he'd been ill, as in hair breath so. Few ducked cancer then, but Wayne apparently beat it, and told the world. He would wear a cloak of invincibility through ordeal of Katie Elder as media peered close for collapse, Wayne performance continuing even after director Henry Hathaway called cut. Producer Wallis was considerate, but Hathaway was a tough bird who made Wayne face hazards a stuntman should have spared him, Hathaway, like Ford and Hawks, not a director Wayne could stare down. Co-players had Katie Elder stories from there on. Dean Martin had sympathy, thought Wayne the greatest, but Earl Holliman says Duke disappointed him, engaged to excess at "macho bulls--t," the more tiring as everyone knew fragile reality of the situation.



Maybe it's me lacking perception, but there seems little about Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder to bespeak frailty. He carries well, sits the hoss OK, speaks with customary authority, never seems down and possibly out. Steller acting went on here. The movie goes too long, you want the Elders to settle accounts sooner, more forcefully, and not be pushed around so much. Action is ladled less generously; that would have needed Wayne at center and there was distinct limit to what he could do. Shooting in Mexico saved cash, but costs crept up, and Wallis began looking for ways to shave location time and do more of Katie Elder back on H'wood soundstages. Success was assured as Wayne hadn't been in a western since McLintock! two years before, so $4.8 million in domestic rentals for Katie Elder was perhaps expected. A 1968 reissue with Red Line 7000 was good for another $325K, and ABC stepped up with further revenue for an 11/17 tee-vee run later a same year.

10 Comments:

Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This film was extremely popular. During the Saturday movie marathons on television after 1981, it would be scheduled at different time slots every 15 days for a long while.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Watched it twice in the last few months.

7:13 AM  
Blogger James Abbott said...

I first saw this in 1968 when I was five at a drive-in theater in Milford, PA. Even at five, I had a hard time believing they were brothers....

A somewhat neglected film, I think, as it is an unusually strong addition to the latter Wayne corpus. And Dean Martin is an asset to any film.

Katie Elder was one of the many names for Big Nose Kate, lover of Doc Holliday. Wayne, Martin, et.al. as the progeny of Doc Holliday is a vision too delicious to contemplate.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Some serious sibling spacing in that Elder family. Wayne was about 10 years older than Martin, Martin about 10 years older than Holliman and Holliman around 15 years older than Anderson!

1:15 PM  
Blogger MikeD said...

My dad took me to see this in '65 when I was 12. I never doubted that they could have been brothers but I was just enjoying the show. That opening theme brings me back to those carefree times. I've watched it a bunch since, but I can't remember if Dean Martin makes it to the end credits.
Since hearing the story of his firing, I've always wondered how Tommy Kirk's career would have panned out had he not be busted for pot. He did some good work for Disney.

10:30 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer considers late career John Wayne:


The opening scene of “The Sons of Katie Elder” turns on the image of John Wayne, immense and almost graven, gazing upon the funeral of Katie Elder from a distant place. There is a valedictory quality to it which says, “Here is a man. Note him well, for he may not come this way again.” The shadow of death seems to hang over nearly all the films Wayne will make to the end of his life, especially those that were distinguished only by his presence in them. Whatever their merits as entertainments, their real purpose was to provide an opportunity for those who cherished the man to pay their respects to him for what could be the final time, and to celebrate the career that had brought him to this place. “True Grit” might be considered an exception, but in the great scene where “Rooster” Cogburn confronts the gang of taunting badmen, it is really, for the audience, John Wayne riding once more for glory against all odds.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

Smoking tobacco is very bad for your health. May John Wayne, whose death brought that fact home to many who otherwise might have been caught up in, or have continued on with, that bad habit, rest in peace.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Dino makes it through the final fade out. Holliman, not as fortunate.

8:23 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

Thanks Mike Cline! I still don't recall seeing Dino after he passes out on the barn floor. I need to break out my old DVD. But now I'll be thinking "Hey, they can't be brothers!".

That splinter was pretty painful to me as Earl Holliman was a favorite for his stint on Hotel De Paree (At the time I thought the name of the show was Sundance).

9:28 AM  
Blogger gscarfe said...

Dean is left lying on the floor as the Duke takes his gun and strides out of the shot with a suspiciously post-dubbed line on the soundtrack : "And get a doctor for Tom".

Since he is never shown again, but only referred to by Martha Hyer and Wayne in the final scene, I suspect that Dean's character was originally slated to face a more downbeat fate.

4:40 PM  

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