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nitratefiend

The Duke before Stagecoach

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I need some advice from fans who know John Wayne's early work better than I. For my birthday, some people very dear to me gave me a "John Wayne Collection" of 10 DVD's, thinking it would be a big hit (so I acted like it was). But I read down the list of "22 films in all!" listed on the cover, the only title of which I recognized was "'Neath Arizona Skies," and realized they were all early movies of his from the early-to-mid-30's. I believe they were purposely packaged this way to lure the unsuspecting.

 

Now, the Duke is one of my favorites, and has been for many years, for films like "Fort Apache" (the best film about military discipline and leadership -- and their limitations -- that I know), "The Shootist" (the one that should have won him an Oscar), and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (very nuanced performance, conveys deep emotion with just a grimace). I even love "Three Godfathers," despite its somewhat contrived and hoky story line, for his byplay with his supporting cast. But I watched many of his early 30's movies on Saturday afternoon TV many decades ago, and recall that there is not much to distinguish one from another. I remember them mainly for poor film quality and lots of long shots of posses, or vigilantes, or outlaws, riding out -- as well as safes being robbed, damsels in distress, etc.

 

So I'd appreciate some insights into whether it's going to be enjoyable to watch my way through 22 hours of these films, or whether I should be honest with those who gave them to me and ask if they'd mind whether I exchanged them. Looking at Wayne's early filmography on Wikipedia, I can see some of them may have some redeeming qualities after all -- like watching him and Yakima Canutt in their early days. For all I know, there may even be people out there who are ready to argue that some of these films are among his best and not to be missed. So, let's hear what you think.

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Hi nitratefiend,

I haven't seen all of those films, but a good many ( I think I have the same or similar DVD set you got) and while I certainly would not say they are among his best, they can be okay "filler" for when you don't know what else to watch. Their strongest suit seems to be the actions sequences which are generally really good. Yakima and Duke worked out so many of these they had to be inventive and some are quite exciting.

 

I'm sure others including movieman1957 can weigh in on the best of them. They all kind of blurr together for me. :D

 

P.S. Does your DVD set also include the documentary, "The American West of John Ford"? If so, don't miss that one.

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It all depends on what you like. If you know "'Neath Arizona Skies" that gives you a good idea what the rest of them are like. Frankly, I have found most them almost interchangeable.

 

You list a few good reasons for keeping them. An historical look at Wayne or the early days of "B" westerns would be a positive spin on the collection. If you are looking for solid entertainment then that is less likely to be found.

 

If you are really looking to get some of the more popular Wayne films I'd be inclined to upgrade.

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For starters if you have never seen it watch "The Big Trail" , the movie where John Wayne became the John Wayne we have come to know and love { or Hate}. That's the film where he was christened with his new name thanks to Raoul Walsh and Fox studio head honcho Winfield Sheehan.. "The Big Trail" was a super A+ film costing millions and it flopped badly and relegated the new John Wayne to poverty row and the world of "B" or even "C" westerns. He did a few bit parts in other better films but as far as leads it was the "B"'s. until "Stagecoach" So what you have is what basically the average pieces of his work in the 1930's. But watch "The Big Trail", it is a very well made epic and the basic reason it failed was due to the depression and the new film process of 70mm widescreen. Many theaters could not afford to put in new screens and the film tanked. But today it is considered a early epic and Wayne is really very good considering it was his first lead. Buy or rent the 2 dvd version to give you background on the film and its star....

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The thing about all of the B westerns John Wayne appeared in during the 1930's is that this was one heck of a big training ground for him as an actor. Sure, one could say that many of the B's he made were often repetitive, but they gave him the necessary acting chops to move on once Pappy Ford selected him for 1939's Stagecoach.

 

He learned and honed his craft while appearing in the B films. Lets face it, he wasn't et in the same league as other more established stars were. Add to that he wasn't a silent film veteran like so many others were by the time talkies emerged in the late to early 30's. So he was left to appear in these poverty row films. And he worked his butt off.

 

This is the reason his filmography is so large. All of these B films count toward his total number of films acted in.

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Thank you all for some good and honest advice. I have decided to keep the set and watch the movies gradually over time, one after another as I feel like watching one. There was a local access program in this area (until Verizon dropped it) that showed "B" westerns and western serials from the 30's, introduced by a very knowledgeable host, that I enjoyed watching. That and your comments make me think I could probably find some things of interest in these films, too.

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Postscript: I broke the plastic and watched "His Private Secretary" yesterday, as it was the one I was expecting to like least -- a Rom-Com in a non-Western setting. Instead I found some things to enjoy in it. Production values are terrible, particularly the sound. I think this is what puts "B" movies in a lower category, as Wayne's female lead Evalyn Knapp plays well and at one point smiles in a way that reminded me of Irene Dunne. Most of the film's budget may have gone on the car Wayne drives. (I believe he says it's a Shaw.) That, and the 1930's gas station he buys, make the film watchable in themselves. But there's also a bit in a church where Wayne walks in the back after the service has started, hat in hand, that remind one of the great moments he was able to build in later films by combining strength and humility.

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Well, pilgrim, I mean nitratefiend, I believe I have that same set. The best one is "The Trail Beyond with Noah Beery Jr. and his father, Noah Beery. Many were directed by Robert Bradbury, who was the father of cowboy star Bob Steele. Yakima Canutt appears in speaking roles in many of them, and Gabby Hayes is seen in some with and without the whiskers. Sometimes he even plays the villain. It's interesting to see future legends early in their careers. TCM has even played a few of them from time to time. Most are only about an hour long so the story and action moves fast.

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One by one I've been watching and enjoying them, Miles. Finding nice little touches in each. The ones I've seen so far are in fact so short that the directors don't seem to have found time to develop the characters and plot lines that you think are going to bloom into bigger conflicts. Like the Duke's character and his cousin in "Hell Town." Multiple potential conflicts there (which I won't go into so as not to spoil the movie for others), but it all ends amicably. There really are no conflicted characters in the ones I've seen yet -- a character is either all bad or he's a decent guy who will do the right thing in the end.

 

I've always admired "Stagecoach" for its compactness. John Ford packed so many elements of the classic Western into just over 90 minutes. Now I admire it even more. It's not just the plot and the action that he managed to distill into that length, it's also the characterizations and the conflicts.

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Stagecoach question! I'm wondering lately whether a town called Lourdesburg (Lordsburg?) actually existed in the old west. And where it is located. Or where it was located.

No, I won't 'Google' it! Either you know it or you don't. I don't. Do you?

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I'm glad to have it confirmed. Really dig those Biblical-sounding town names. Stuff of legend!

Imagine how it would be living in a town like that today, knowing it was where the Ringo Kid was headed...

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14 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I'm glad to have it confirmed. Really dig those Biblical-sounding town names. Stuff of legend!

Imagine how it would be living in a town like that today, knowing it was where the Ringo Kid was headed...

It's really far south too. I always imagine it as being set in Utah because all of the Monument Valley shots.

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another interesting-sounding town: 'Ponca City, Oklahoma'. I bet that little burg has seen some history. You may recall it as the town 'Alice' departs from in the beginning of Scorcese's flick.

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