Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Searching for John Wayne

PBS’ American Masters returns for its 20th season with a portrait of two movie icons: director John Ford and actor John Wayne. (Check local listings for repeat airings this week.)
You think John Wayne was tough in The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and They Were Expendable?
Ford was tougher.
If only these two had lived long enough to record special edition commentaries for DVD releases of all their film collaborations. I doubt there would be room for air-kissing and bullshit like “Ford’s a genius” and “John was such a joy to work with, he really took a risk doing this role.”
This Q&A from the PBS website sums up the way they worked.
Q: John Ford was reportedly angry at John Wayne for not serving in World War II as he and many other Hollywood icons did. How did this affect their relationship?
Documentary director Stephen Pollard: I don’t think Wayne not serving really had a strong effect on his relationship with Ford. Ford always treated Wayne horribly from his early days as a prop man to his years as one of the biggest stars in the world.
How did these two remain friends? They didn’t talk politics, even though Wayne was a rabid anti-communist in the 1950s, while Ford deplored red-baiting and put his career on the line to stop it.
The documentary’s director, Sam Pollard, rounded up archival footage, film clips from all their collaborations, and interviews with Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Mark Rydell, and John Milius.
Future installments of American Masters will explore the creative lives of Marilyn Monroe, Edward R. Murrow, Willie Nelson, Preston Sturges, Judy Garland, Arthur Miller & Elia Kazan, and Andy Warhol.

Check your local listings for airtimes
. This show will send you directly to your DVD classics collection.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon