John Agar was furious with director John Ford for calling him Mr Temple However, Wayne, who was playing Captain Kirby York, came alongside Agar and mentored him with the more difficult aspects of the production. The young actor never forgot the star’s kindness to him and later said: “I would go to hell and back for Duke.”
The Lt Mickey actor wasn’t the only member of the cast to suffer Ford’s rudeness and bullying though. Wayne’s Lt Col Owen Thursday co-star Henry Fonda found the director’s stubborn refusal to rehearse emotional scenes infuriating.
Fonda found that if he wanted to discuss a scene with Ford, the director would just change the subject or tell him to shut up. The star also found the filmmaker’s swearing and bullying very uncomfortable, even to the point of making him cry.
Wives and girlfriends weren’t allowed on the Monument Valley set, but Duke’s son Michael Wayne was. He recalled: “I literally saw tears coming out of Henry Fonda’s eyes on Fort Apache. He just turned and walked away.”
Despite all they had to put up with, both Wayne and Fonda couldn’t deny Ford’s sheer genius as a filmmaker. Fonda, who would work with Ford nine times and felt the director was responsible for some of his best movies. Film critics at the time believed he turned him from a movie star into a proper actor.
As for Wayne, he would give over to the director’s dictations and put up with his terrible temper and insults since he made him a Hollywood star. Admiring his filmmaking talents, Duke once said: “When he pointed the camera, he was painting with it. He didn’t believe in keeping the camera in motion; he moved his people toward the camera and away from it.”