John Wayne and John Ford collaborated on some of the Hollywood Golden Age’s best-loved Westerns from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
But perhaps their most famous was 1956’s The Searchers, which saw Duke play a Civil War veteran spending years looking for his abducted niece, portrayed by Natalie Wood.
Since she was still a student in high school at the time, Wayne and co-star Jeffrey Hunter had to pick the rising star up and take her to set on a number of occasions.
The Searchers was shot in Ford’s favoured Monument Valley, part of the Navajo territory on the Arizona/Utah state line, where temperatures during filming could reach heights of 49°C (120°F).
Read more… John Wayne was left ‘furious’ after what Kirk Douglas did on The War Wagon set [KIRK DOUGLAS]
Among the actors was Gone with the Wind and It’s a Wonderful Life’s Ward Bond, who played Reverend Captain Clayton in the Western. He was a lifelong friend of Wayne’s and co-starred with him in a number of Ford’s movies like Fort Apache, Rio Bravo and The Quiet Man. However, on The Searchers Bond was particularly badly behaved, including behaviour that would never be tolerated today. The 53-year-old actor took a liking to Vera Miles, who played Laurie Jorgensen with him in The Searchers.
According to a biography of John Ford, after the day’s shooting in Monument Valley, Bond would head back to his motel room. There he’d allegedly walk around naked with the curtains open at the window, in the hope of attracting the 27-year-old actress. Although apparently, this didn’t go to plan for him. Bond, who died in 1960 also managed to escape the fury of the notoriously bad tempted Ford by the skin of his teeth.
One day on set, Bond realised he needed a shave and what happened next was certainly a close one. During the filming of Ethan’s speech in which he recounted discovering and burying Lucy, Wayne nailed his first take much to Ford’s delight. However, for some strange reason, the camera had stopped which saw the director “supremely irritated”. He asked the cameraman what was wrong, only for the power to return and filming to resume.
What had happened was that Bond had pulled the plug so he could charge his electric razor. The crew knew the truth of the matter but decided not to tell Ford out of fear that the director would thump him. Nevertheless, the director did indeed find out, long after the actor’s death.
John Wayne estate pays tribute on anniversary of Duke’s death and True Grit [TRUE GRIT]
John Wayne death – The three US presidents who honoured Duke in touching way [JOHN WAYNE DEATH]
‘Adorable’ John Wayne ‘so different in our Western’ claims Rio Bravo co-star [RIO BRAVO]
Years after The Searchers premiered, the film’s cinematographer Winton C Hoch told Ford at a Hollywood event how the late actor was responsible for losing Wayne’s perfect take. Upon hearing this “Ford’s face turned white. He was uncharacteristically speechless because he didn’t have his favourite horse’s ass to kick around anymore.”
Bond died just four years after The Searchers was released after suffering a massive heart attack on November 3, 1960. Being a close friend of his co-star, Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral. In his will, the actor bequeathed to Duke the shotgun with which the Hollywood star had accidentally shot him on a hunting trip.