Legendary filmmaker Howard Hawks and movie star John Wayne had quite a history together on the silver screen. They worked together on some classic films that continue to stand the test of time. Hawks always thought Wayne was an underrated actor, but not quite for the obvious reasons that one might imagine. The director said that the star had the ability to feel when a movie scene wasn’t quite right.
Hawks and Wayne first worked together on 1948’s Red River, which also starred Montgomery Clift. The actor himself credited the movie as the first time that he considered himself a “real” actor. Red River follows a headstrong cattle rancher traveling to Mississippi to fetch a better price, but he begins to butt heads with his protégé.
Next, they worked on 1959’s Rio Bravo together, which is about a small-town sheriff who finds himself in a difficult situation. He puts together an unlikely crew to help hold a man in jail whose criminal brother is willing to do anything to break him out.
In 1962, Hawks and Wayne made Hatari!. This comedy follows a group of animal trappers in Africa who are looking to capture wild animals to sell to zoos for money until they meet a wildlife photographer who shows them a new perspective.
In the 1967 movie El Dorado, a gunfighter for hire works with the local sheriff to help a rancher and his family fight off a local bad guy seeking to take over their water supply.
Finally, their last movie together was 1970’s Rio Lobo. The story is set after the Civil War, a union leader seeks out the treacherous soldiers whose decisions resulted in the loss of a close friend.
Hawks and Wayne developed a close working relationship over the years. In Ronald L. Davis’ book, Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne, the filmmaker praised the movie star’s ability to bring something different to the silver screen. Hawks referred to him as an “underrated actor.”
“He holds a thing together, he gives it a solidity and honesty, and he can make a lot of things believable,” Hawks said. “If he’s kind of grousing around in a scene, you know that there’s something wrong with the scene. He maybe can’t tell you, but you can find out what’s bothering him. He has a very true sense of cinema.”
Hawks continued: “Wayne is like a big cat on his feet; he thinks quickly and he thinks right. Also, he contributes to what other people do.”
Out of the five movies that Wayne and Hawks collaborated on together, Hatari! was the least well-received film. According to Wayne’s Rotten Tomatoes page, it earned a 64% approval rating from critics. They don’t have any “rotten” features that fell to 59% or below, marking them as quite a powerful duo.
However, they did manage to score 100% on two of their movies together. Red River and El Dorado both earned perfect ratings, which makes sense, given their stature as Western classics. Meanwhile, Rio Bravo didn’t rank far behind with a 98% approval rating.
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