Orson Welles was just 25 years old when he co-wrote, directed and starred in Citizen Kane.
That’s an incredible feat given that the 1941 drama is frequently cited as the greatest film ever made and even more so when considering that this was the actor’s first-ever film and directorial debut.
And to prepare to helm his masterpiece, he watched John Ford’s Stagecoach over 40 times.
Welles said of the 1939 Western that made John Wayne a star: “As it turned out, the first day I ever walked onto a set was my first day as a director. I’d learned whatever I knew in the projection room—from Ford.
“After dinner every night for about a month, I’d run Stagecoach, often with some different technician or department head from the studio, and ask questions. ‘How was this done?’ ‘Why was this done?’ It was like going to school.”
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Orson Welles in Citizen Kane
Aside from Ford’s amazing talent as a director one of the tragic reasons Stagecoach was so good is because the filmmaker was a notorious bully.
Throughout his career, he would treat his actors terribly to get better performances out of them.
On the set of this Western, the director would call Duke “a big oaf and “dumb “b***ard”, constantly criticising his delivery of lines, his manner of walking and even how he washed his face on film.
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John Wayne in Stagecoach