On this Dec 30, heading into the new year, I wanted to do one of Movie Rob’s GGs (Genre Grandeur) – I always get his emails – and when the theme of documentaries came up- it gave me a chance to A- participate and do something for a great fellow film blogger and B- do something a bit different as I’ve never reviewed a documentary before.
I watch a lot of documentary programs such as on Reelz Channel about the British Royal Family as well as celebrity documentaries- but in terms of legit documentaries- I wanted to tackle the the 2010 Irish documentary John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man (2010)- and its absolutely the best documentary you can watch if you are a true “Quiet Man Crazy” (as they are called!).
To start off, I’ll declare that it was good timing with the making of this
documentary as Maureen O’Hara was interviewed (this came out 5 years before she
died) which adds a great deal of authenticity. John Ford himself appears in
archive footage and although John Wayne himself does not appear in any type of interview,
his daughter, Aissa, does. And of course, what would a classic Hollywood
documentary be without insight from Peter Bogdanovich and Martian Scorsese.
I like the style of the documentary, as it just isn’t (archive) interviews with the cast and crew of the film, there’s interviews with legitimate people- a local shop owner in Cong (where the film was shot), John Ford’s Irish cousins, Maureen’s nephew Charlie. It goes on modern day location to see what some of the most iconic film landmarks look like today (such as the Pub, the Bridge, the field where Mary- Kate and Sean go on their courting sequence). The film even goes to the site of where John Ford’s Irish family’s house was and even to Maine where he grew up.
Of all interviewees, of course, Maureen O’Hara provided the most insight. What she revealed wasn’t exactly “new” info (to the devoted fan), but what I found was that it gave viewers a sense of emotion; it’s one thing to read about her thoughts in her autobiography or in a quoted written piece, but definitely another thing to hear her talk about it. I loved to hear the feistiness of her voice when discussing Ford or the fondness she possesses when remembering John Wayne. The real treat in her interview segments was her remembering, clear as day, the words to the song she sang in the film. She SPOKE the words, but still- she didn’t pause or stumble upon saying them!
The rest of the documentary really goes in depth to analyze the film- from the choices made in shooting the film, to the certain little details chosen to make it sentimental. Furthermore, it sets the record straight about some of the famous rumors regarding the film (yes, Wayne directed the horse race scene on the beach, no the final words whispered by Mary Kate in the end have not and will not ever be told to the public ).
Overall, this is just a splendid documentary that really makes you realize this was Ford’s ultimate picture and that he did put his whole being into making it.
Here is the trailer and if you want to see the whole film- Olive pictures has released it on DVD and Blu Ray. I have to point out- Olive has added bonus interviews and clips, trust me they are worth seeing!!! (Amazon Link)
In some ways, The Undefeated (1969) ever-so-slightly reminds me of The Horse Soldiers (1959). The casting of two major actors, the civil war era backdrop, as well as the two leads coming together to fight the common enemy.
An aspect audiences may find interesting about this film is its main point of focus is about a historical event many probably do not even know about- the Austrian intervention in Mexico, when Archduke Maximillian was deemed Emperor of Mexico on the behalf of French Emperor Napoleon III. The film loosely follows the true story of Confederate General James Orville Shelby’s escape to Mexico in an attempt to join the Austrian forces. The name of the movie is taken from a famous poem written about Shelby and his men’s efforts.
The Undefeated sees John Wayne as Union Colonel John Henry Thomas and Rock Hudson as Confederate Colonel James Langdon. After the end of the civil war, Langdon feels defeated and along with his men, plan to flee to Mexico to join the French-Austrian recruits in the invasion of Mexico and their president Benito Juarez. Thomas is also on his way to Mexico along with his adopted Indian son (Roman Gabriel) and 3000 horses to sell them to the French Austrian forces. Naturally the two parties cross paths, and after settling their differences and making their way, join forces to defeat Juarez’s Mexican forces that threaten them both.
It’s a standard later John Wayne western, and even though it may not rank as one of the “Best western” movies, it still is worth watching for all of the great actors (Ben Johnson, Dub Taylor for starters) in the story. Mr. Hudson referred to this movie as, “crap”, but I think anyone watching today would consider it good- especially when there are no westerns made like this anymore.
In today’s terms, The Undefeated is almost a forgotten film on both Wayne and Hudson’s filmographies. John Wayne had his great role as Rooster Cogburn in the year’s True Grit and for Rock Hudson there were no big roles for him around this time; it really was towards the end of his film career, before making a transition to TV.
The Undefeated gave Hudson a real chance to shine. In his role of Colonel Langdon Hudson he gets to prove he can do a convincing southern accent. I immediately compared it to Pillow Talk (1959) when he was able to do a phony Texas accent when one was called for it. Hudson giving a convincing accent in this movie just proves the way in which he approached his characters and the way he gave them a genuine believability.
In all honesty, I probably have to watch this film again in order to really catch the details- it’s a bit long at just under 2 hours, but really enjoyable even if its not my personal favorite. After all- John Wayne made this movie even when he was in extreme pain for tearing his shoulder ligaments- and for that alone it should be an appreciated piece !!!
I am very excited to write this article, as it’s been something I’ve always wanted to write about- a visit to John Wayne’s hometown of Winterset, Iowa. I’d like to dedicate this article to the owners of The Heavenly Habitat Bed and Breakfast we stayed at, Steve and Nancy, as well as my Mom, Sandra, and (as always when it comes to The Duke) my late Grandfather Joseph Kasper, the man who introduced me to John Wayne in the first place.
My mom and I took the trip specifically to see the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, as we are both major fans (thanks to Joseph Kasper!!!) but we soon discovered the small town of Winterset to be absolutely delightful. The drive was 5 ½ hours from our hometown of Tinley Park IL (outside Chicago) but the drive seemed to fly by, as the open road was calming (well that, and we had good music to listen to- KISS, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, the RENT soundtrack, The Beach Boys- my request!).
We got into Winterset and the first thing I noticed that got me really excited was the John Wayne Drive sign- it’s not every day you cruise down a street named after an American Icon! We drove down to the Heavenly Habitat Bed and Breakfast (Maureen O’Hara stayed here in 2013 for the ground breaking ceremony for the building of the JW museum; we stayed in the same room she did) but because we were early for check in, we decided to walk down to the John Wayne Museum and look into the gift shop (the first of many trips!!). We also had the opportunity to take some great pics outside the museum.
Maureen O’Hara (rightfully) donated this diamond on the Duke’s Movie Diamond Walk outside the museum
Taken moments after we got there
Cut out Duke
In the Gift Shop!!
While inside the gift shop, I was really ecstatic about just being in Iowa and being in the town Duke was born in!!! My Mom and I took some pictures and I can positively absolutely say I’ve never been more excited just to look around a gift shop.
This is the entrance to the little vignette that plays
After the gift shop and photo taking session, we went back to The Heavenly Habitat Bed and Breakfast and met the owners Steve and Nancy (please please click the link at the end for their website and to learn more about them) The Heavenly Habitat name sounds exactly as the name suggests, heavenly; it was an old church converted to a B&B. My Mom chose this place because of its amazing reviews- and the fact Maureen O’Hara stayed there in 2013 made it even more of a reason to stay there (my Mom made sure to reserve the room that she stayed in). At first, that was what made me really excited to stay, but as we got more acquainted with both the place and Steve and Nancy, I felt extremely comfortable there, and I’m the type of person who has a hard time opening up to new people and places. Towards the end of the visit I felt as comfortable at the B&B as I do in my own room at home- I didn’t want to leave!!
Heavenly Habitat- aka The Perfect B&B
With Nancy & Steve- Two Lovely People
Maureen O’Hara stayed in this room in 2013- and I got to stay there too!!!!!!
Steve and Nancy are the nicest couple and they are the most wonderful people. Like I mentioned earlier, I have a hard time opening up to people, but they were so friendly and easy to talk to they had me talking with them in no time. They told me stories of when Maureen O’Hara stayed with them- how the paparazzi created a frenzy, Maureen’s memories making McLintock, how she had to put on make -up and do her hair before she went out on the town- and every one was priceless! But the most touching thing Steve told me was how much Ms. O’Hara enjoyed her stay in Winterset. He told me of how she said the rolling hills in Iowa reminded her of Ireland and that she wanted so very badly to come back to Winterset one day.
Maureen O’Hara’s signature in the guestbook- above her’s is her caretaker and below is her great-granddaughter (she didn’t stay but signed anyway!)
But it was really the second day in Winterset that the real fun began. It all started with breakfast, when Steve and Nancy made us Maureen O’Hara’s favorite eggs: Emeril Lagasse’s Shirred Eggs and they were absolutely delicious. We stayed and chatted with them for a while until the JW Museum opened up at 10- and I was literally jumping out of my skin when we got there.
The JW museum is small in space, but packed to the max with artifacts, props, costumes, pictures and other memorabilia from his life and movies.
I’ll let the pictures and comments do the talking, as this is just a small sample of what we saw. I was so busy reading and fawning I didn’t get as many pics as I wanted to and I thank my Mom for taking the pics I slacked off on (even though I thought she was taking too many at the time, I now thank her!!!).
Panels from The Shootist (1976). Amazing to be with these pieces that were in the final scene ever of John Wayne on film.
With the actual Jaunting Car used in The Quiet Man (1952). It came all the way from Ireland and placed in the JW Museum at Maureen O’Hara’s request. I was beaming
It was truly amazing and I can’t really say much in words about it other than the fact it was just the coolest thing ever.
After doing the Museum part we then went over to the little theater area where a 15 minute clip reel/ vignette plays. There were so many posters of Duke’s movies, but there’s not really time to take pics inside because there’s always people waiting for the next running of the clip reel. I was lucky enough to be standing next to The Horse Soldiers (1959) poster and asked my mom to snap a pic of me with it (my inner Bill Holden fan was also really excited for that!)
Me and The Horse Soldiers poster– Duke and Bill Holden!!!
After the museum part we then walked down to Duke’s childhood home and birthplace. Going down to and being inside his home was extremely humbling. It was a four room house with just a front room, little parlor, bedroom and kitchen. John Wayne came from the most humble of roots and it was in that moment when I was in his house where I realized how much of Winterset, Iowa was present in his overall personality. He didn’t spend too much of his life here, but the spirit of his hometown was forever embedded in him. Looking back at it all, I really feel like I was able to capture John Wayne’s spirit by making a visit there and a part of it is now a part of me. I don’t have too many pictures of the inside part of the house, I was too busy being amazed, but I will say I’m OK with that, it’s just something that should be seen with your actual eyes.
After we visited the home, we went back to the gift shop where we got more stuff- (seriously it’s as if I saw something new to get every time we walked in; I think we went back 5-6 more times and every time got stuff- hahaha!)
My mom and I just spent the rest of the day walking around the little town of the Winterset area- it’s so cute and quaint. Everything was in walking distance of each other and in every shop people were friendly and polite. We ate at Montross Pharmacy & Drug store where we sat at the counter (my request!) and had ice cream floats. It was something I don’t have the opportunity to do at home, so I loved it! I felt like I was back in time doing something people of my grandparents’ generation would do- it was the most awesome memory!
In the late afternoon we just went back to the B&B- and we watched The Quiet Man– what else!
The next morning it was time to leave, and both my Mom and I were so, so sad to leave the B&B! We truly want to go back and are considering making Winterset a yearly Mother-Daughter trip for us. I left this message in the guest journal for Steve and Nancy and wanted to share it with you all here:
Overall, I feel extremely lucky to have been able to make it to John Wayne’s hometown and see his birthplace/childhood home and museum; I want to thank my Mom for taking me there, wanting to do a special trip with me- It means a lot and I know your father is looking down at us so happy we made it there; I know he was alongside us the whole time!!!
And again I thank Steve and Nancy for being wonderful people and running the most perfect Bed and Breakfast- it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when I will come back!! Steve, I truly do believe you when you say the spirit of Maureen O’Hara looks after the B&B and I say, “Yes”, I truly felt her spirit within its walls.
And lastly to Mr. John Wayne himself, all I can say is your little hometown is so proud of you, and your legacy continues to be felt there to this day. I felt completely honored and humbled to tour your hometown and I will be back again.
I think I shock people when I say I love a good western film. I haven’t seen a ton, ton (hey- Im watching my way through) but I will out rightfully say I’m just as content watching a cowboy ride off into the unknown as a I am watching a Victorian costume drama.
To me the participation in this blogathon for me was an easy decision even if the choice of which one to do was hard! In the end, I settled for Big Jake (1971). It’s a John Wayne classic and you just can’t go wrong with that!
I know many of us who blog and read in the classic movie fandom are fans of John Wayne, but with that being said- in a resume of over 100 films it can be hard to sort out which ones are the essentials. In my view I think Big Jake is up there with the best- maybe not the top 5- but it’s certainly beloved.
There are so many awesome things about this picture- so without further ado- I decided to present to you five facts on why I believe Big Jake is a highlight to see on the Duke’s filmography.
1-The Cast! This movie has Maureen O’Hara playing Big Jake’s wife Martha (who else?!), Patick Wayne as son James McCandles, Ethan Wayne as grandson Little Jake McCandles, Christopher Mitchum (Robert’s son) as Michael McCandles, and Richard Boone as Gang Leader John Frain.
2-The Humor! This movie has got brief great moments of humor- The Daddy scene in the beginning, Big Jake sewing James’s trousers, Big Jake’s “Dog”, the shower scene- funny stuff!!!
3-The Family- The whole underlying theme of this story is family. Sure Big Jake hasn’t seen his grandson ever before, and hasnt seen his wife and sons for years- but that doesn’t stop him from riding off with this sons to save and rescue his grandson! And that scene with Little Jake tending to Big Jake’s wound- too adorable!! (edit- This film contains Duke’s family off screen too! Michael Wayne produced through Batjac!)
4- The Music- Western scores are seriously over looked! This movie’s score is not to be missed!
5-One of the last of its kind- Not only for John Wayne but for the western genre itself. For Duke, it was the last time he would work Maureen, Patrick and Ethan. And for westerns- well- this was 1971 and the genre was no longer appreciated by general audiences. I dare someone to watch this and not think it has great scenery, a great plot, and just good old fashioned western elements- cowboys, gun fight shootouts, horses, chasing outlaws. I for one find it sad westerns today aren’t a ‘thing’ anymore- think about it, there is no such thing as a western cowboy hero in the 21st century. I consider those who love westerns today to have good taste in movies and actors- because they literally do not make them anymore.
Bonus– watch this movie for the best recurring dialogue exchange
Person- Jacob McCandles? I thought you were dead!
Jacob McCandles- Not Hardly!
And if all that wasn’t enough take a look at this clip from the premiere of the film at Knotts Berry Farm in 1971- The Duke and Maureen- just perfect!!
BIG JAKE 1971 AVAILABLE ON DVD, BLU-RAY, and AMAZON STREAMING, OCCASIONALLY PLAYED ON TCM