Two of John Wayne’s movies have been lost to time. Long before his breakout role in John Ford’s Stagecoach, Wayne was a struggling young actor who fronted dozens of “Poverty Row” films. These were low-budget b-movies that were filmed quickly, with some notable examples from his career including Wayne’s sole “horror” Haunted Gold. He always appeared to be on the cusp of stardom, but after concerns about being typecast, Wayne attempted to leave Westerns behind in the 1930s by accepting a contract with Universal. This saw him appear in a variety of more contemporary roles like I Cover The War.
This move was disastrous, ultimately, as all six of his Universal outings bombed. Luckily for Wayne, Stagecoach was right around the corner, and Westerns soon became his go-to genre. He worked almost non-stop during his decades-long career, so alongside some classics like The Searchers or True Grit, he made his share of duds too. Fans of the actor have well over 160 movies to work through, including Jet Pilot, which Wayne felt was his worst. However, two of his early movies have been lost.
Wayne’s first missing film is 1936 Western The Oregon Trail, which he made for Republic Pictures. Wayne made over 30 movies with the studio, with Oregon Trail casting him as an army captain seeking revenge for the death of his father. The film also co-starred Gone With The Wind’s Anne Rutherford as Wayne’s love interest. According to a BBC article, the search to find a print of The Oregon Trail began in 2003, and a decade later, a collection of black and white stills were recovered. Despite this, a print of the film itself has yet to be found.
The second lost John Wayne movie is 1937’s Adventure’s End, which was the final entry in his run of Universal movies. This cast him as Duke Slade, who signs on to work on a whaling vessel and finds himself caught up in a munity. Adventure’s End was co-produced by Trem Carr, who lured Wayne away from Republic to Universal and promised to break him free of cowboy roles. Carr was famous for cost-cutting, however, with Adventure’s End being another cheapie that was quickly slapped together. Like The Oregon Trail, Adventure’s End is another Wayne effort where no prints are known to exist.
Adventure’s End Was A Turning Point In Wayne’s Career
Adventure’s End sounds like it tried to sell itself on Wayne’s sex appeal, as he was shirtless for the majority of his screentime – as the few surviving stills can attest. However, after it received poor reviews and bombed, it left its leading man in a bad spot. Wayne – who starred in 80 Westerns – attempt to turn away from Westerns had fared poorly, and he had to basically beg Republic for more work after leaving them. Had Adventure’s End been a success, maybe Wayne’s career could have gone in a totally different direction, but it appears Westerns were always his destiny.
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