Home Classic Movies John Wayne DVD Collection: Rarely Seen All-Star ‘Disaster’ Blockbuster + ‘Shakespearean’ Western

John Wayne DVD Collection: Rarely Seen All-Star ‘Disaster’ Blockbuster + ‘Shakespearean’ Western

John Wayne DVD collection: The High and the Mighty. Wayne’s biggest hit up to that time, William A. Wellman’s 1954 “disaster” thriller-melodrama stars the Stagecoach actor as a former airline pilot and compulsive whistler tormented by the memory of a deadly plane crash.
  • Upcoming (unofficial) “John Wayne DVD collection” to include four titles, among them William A. Wellman’s long-unseen 1954 all-star “disaster” melodrama The High and the Mighty, nominated for six Academy Awards.

(Unofficial) ‘John Wayne DVD collection’ includes rare all-star ‘disaster’ blockbuster + Shakespeare-inspired Western romp

In association with the John Wayne-founded Batjac Productions, Paramount Home Entertainment and Paramount’s Worldwide Television Distribution will be releasing a(n unofficial) John Wayne DVD collection beginning in spring 2005.

The upcoming DVD titles starring John Wayne himself are the following:

  • Three movies made by (Batjac predecessor) Wayne/Fellows Productions and distributed by Warner Bros.: the adventure dramas The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky, and the Western Hondo.
  • The Batjac-produced, United Artists-released comedy Western McLintock!.

Created in 1952, Wayne/Fellows Productions was an indie film company owned by Wayne and former RKO/Paramount producer Robert Fellows (Experiment Perilous, Blaze of Noon). Under its original name and ownership, it lasted from 1952 (Big Jim McLain) to 1954 (The High and the Mighty, plus the Wayne-less Ring of Fear and Track of the Cat).

John Wayne took over the company at that time, renaming it Batjac – reportedly a secretarial misspelling of a fictional company (Batjak) featured in Edward Ludwig’s 1948 adventure drama Wake of the Red Witch, starring Wayne and Gail Russell.

In operation as a (mostly) film producing company from the 1950s to the 1970s, besides McLintock!, Batjac’s output included Blood Alley, Legend of the Lost, The Alamo, The Green Berets, and Big Jake, in addition to the Wayne-less titles like China Doll (in partnership with Victor Mature’s Romina Productions) and the well-regarded Budd Boetticher-Randolph Scott Western 7 Men from Now.

Below is a brief look at the four upcoming “John Wayne DVD collection” movies.

The High and the Mighty: ‘John Wayne DVD Collection’ highlight

Rarely seen since the mid-1980s due to legal entanglements and severe print deterioration, the all-restored, all-star, (near-)disaster CinemaScope soap opera The High and the Mighty (1954), about a passenger airliner suffering from technical problems while on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, is the highlight of Batjac/Paramount’s “John Wayne DVD collection.”

A sizable box office hit, The High and the Mighty was the precursor of George Seaton’s Airport, its sequels (Airport 1975, Airport ’77, The Concorde… Airport ’79), its spoof (Airplane!), its rip-offs (Skyjacked, the TV movies Murder on Flight 502 and Mayday at 40,000 Feet!), and all other all-star disaster movies – a popular, albeit not always commercially successful, genre in the 1970s (e.g., The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Meteor, When Time Ran Out…).

Headlining the name cast, John Wayne (instead of first choice Spencer Tracy and Jack Warner’s pick, Alan Ladd) plays a former airline pilot and compulsive whistler bedeviled by the memory of a plane crash for which he held himself responsible and that killed everybody else on board, including his wife and son, while leaving him with a permanent limp.

The question every audience member is supposed to ask: How can this man ever be made whole again? Well, how about having him save everyone’s life when the fateful Hawaii-California flight goes awry as a result of engine woes?

The by then already tired John Wayne formula – despite the limping and whistling, he’s all bravado and derring-do – was undeniably one of the factors that helped to turn The High and the Mighty into a blockbuster.

John Wayne DVD collection title The High and the Mighty with Claire Trevor. The highlight of the upcoming (unofficial) “John Wayne DVD collection” The High and the Mighty features Claire Trevor, Wayne’s leading lady in Allegheny Uprising (1939), Stagecoach (1939) and Dark Command (1940).

The High and the Mighty cast: Grand Hotel on wobbly wings

Along the lines of MGM’s 1932 Academy Award winner Grand Hotel, The High and the Mighty – aside from the rough flight and the possibility of imminent death – presents a group of well-known performers as passengers/crew members going through a series of soap-operaish personal issues:

  • Future Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Robert Stack (Written on the Wind, 1956) as a handsome but “weak” pilot, while former MGM star Laraine Day (Calling Dr. Kildare and sequels, Journey for Margaret) is a frustrated wife-heiress. Coincidentally, both Stack and Day would be seen two decades later in Murder on Flight 502.
  • Veteran Claire Trevor (Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for Key Largo, 1948) as an aging, rough-around-the-edges former actress.
  • Cheeky blonde Jan Sterling (Ace in the Hole) as an aging beauty trying to keep herself looking as youthful as the cosmetics industry will allow.
  • British film veteran Robert Newton (Gaslight, Henry V).
  • Producer/director Stanley Kramer’s future wife Karen Sharpe.
  • Former model and future Funny Face inspiration Doe Avedon.
  • Plus David Brian, Phil Harris, Paul Kelly, Sidney Blackmer, Paul Fix, Julie Bishop, John Howard, William Campbell, and John Smith.

Former aviator Ernest K. McGann was credited for the screenplay, based on his own 1953 novel. Frequent John Wayne collaborator Archie Stout (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Quiet Man, etc.) was responsible for the widescreen color cinematography of the dramatic scenes while William H. Clothier handled the aerial shots.

1 Oscar win + 5 nominations

The High and the Mighty is not only the box office highlight of the “John Wayne DVD Collection” but also its most prestigious item, having been nominated for six Academy Awards:

  • Best Director: Former Lafayette Flying Corps pilot William A. Wellman. This was Wellman’s third and final nomination in this category, following A Star Is Born (1937) and Battleground (1949). Also worth noting, Wellman’s Wings (1927) – about World War I aviators – was the first Best Picture (or “Best Production”) Academy Award winner.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Claire Trevor & Jan Sterling.
  • Best Editing: Ralph Dawson.
  • Best Score of a Dramatic/Comedy Picture: Dimitri Tiomkin.
  • Best Original Song: “The High and the Mighty” – Dimitri Tiomkin (music) & Ned Washington (lyrics).

The High and the Mighty ended up winning a single Oscar, for Tiomkin’s now-classic score.

Island in the Sky: More earthbound The High and the Mighty precursor

Released the year before The High and the Mighty, a less famous, more modest (e.g., shot in black and white, only one stellar cast member: John Wayne), and equally rare (also due to rights/print quality issues) Wayne-Wellman-McGann-Dawson-Stout/Clothier airplane-in-trouble collaboration, Island in the Sky (1953) follows a group of airmen struggling to survive after a forced landing in sub-Arctic Canada.

Also in the Island in the Sky cast: Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness, Andy Devine, and, in minor roles, future TV stars Fess Parker (Daniel Boone) and Mike Connors (Mannix; here billed as Touch Connors).

John Wayne DVD collection: Hondo with Geraldine Page. A major name on Broadway (Three Sisters, Agnes of God), three-time Tony Award nominee Geraldine Page, even if never a top movie star, was shortlisted for eight Oscars, finally winning in the last round (The Trip to Bountiful, 1985).

Hondo: 3D Western ‘introduced’ Geraldine Page

Mostly directed by John Farrow* – from a screenplay by James Edward Grant, adapting Louis L’Amour’s short story “The Gift of Cochise” – the Warnercolor 3D Western Hondo (1953) stars John Wayne (instead of original choice Glenn Ford) as Hondo Lane, a U.S. Army scout who shows up at the place of a homesteader (Hollywood newcomer and up-and-coming Broadway star Geraldine Page†) left alone with her son (Lee Aaker) after her husband flees from an Apache attack.

Along the lines of another 1953 Western, George Stevens’ much more successful and better remembered Shane, the stranger develops a close bond with both the woman and the boy.

Hondo would eventually be nominated for two – historically significant – Academy Awards:

  • Geraldine Page received the first of her eight Oscar nominations – in this particular case, as Best Supporting Actress – leaving her leading man dumbstruck. “He couldn’t understand it,” Hondo unit production manager and future filmmaker Andrew V. McLaglen (see McLintock! below) is quoted as saying in Ronald L. Davis’ Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. Page lost out to Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity, and, as she herself recalled, would be blacklisted from the industry for seven years due to her association with liberal-minded actress/acting coach Uta Hagen.
  • Louis L’Amour was shortlisted in the now extinct Best Motion Picture Story category. The nomination, however, was later withdrawn as L’Amour’s story had not been written expressly for a motion picture; it had come out in Collier’s magazine in July 1952. Why the confusion? Hondo’s writing credits read “Screenplay by James Edward Grant based on a story by Louis L’Amour” – the formal credit “story by” oftentimes refers to an unproduced screenplay or treatment. On the brighter side, Oscar nomination or no, L’Amour expanded his readership after his novelized version of the Hondo screenplay was published the same year the movie came out.

Also in the Hondo cast: Ward Bond, James Arness, and, as two of the film’s pesky Apaches, Michael Pate and Rodolfo Acosta.

In 1967, Ralph Taeger and Kathie Browne starred in the short-lived television series Hondo, a Batjac co-production.

Notes on John Farrow & Geraldine Page

* After Hondo ran over schedule, John Farrow (Best Director Oscar nominee for Wake Island, 1942) had to leave his post as he was set to direct another movie elsewhere. (His next release was another Western, A Bullet Is Waiting.)

An uncredited John Ford is supposed to have stepped in to shoot the final Apache attack, though in Searching for John Ford, Joseph McBride writes that the filmmaker only “directed two shots of Wayne and a line of cavalrymen.”

John Farrow, one might add, was the husband of Tarzan the Ape Man actress Maureen O’Sullivan and the father of Rosemary’s Baby actress Mia Farrow.

† Despite Hondo’s “Introducing Geraldine Page” on-screen credit, Page had been previously seen in an uncredited small role in Gregory Ratoff’s 1953 drama Taxi, starring Dan Dailey and Constance Smith.

John Wayne DVD Collection: McLintock! with Maureen O’Hara and Patrick Wayne. John Wayne and director Andrew V. McLaglen would be reunited on three other Westerns – The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973) – plus the thriller Hellfighters (1968).

McLintock!: William Shakespeare goes West

The final title in the unofficial “John Wayne DVD collection” is the comic Western McLintock! (1963), partly inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen – a unit production manager on Hondo, an assistant director on Island in the Sky and The High and the Mighty, and son of Academy Award-winning actor Victor McLaglen (The Informer, 1935).

Notably, McLintock! reunited John Wayne with his Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, and The Wings of Eagles leading lady, Maureen O’Hara, cast in the role of the titular wealthy rancher’s estranged wife, out to get custody of their daughter (Stefanie Powers). This would turn out to be Wayne and O’Hara’s final pairing, though the latter would have a cameo in the former’s 1971 Western Big Jake.

Also in the McLintock! cast: John Wayne’s son Patrick Wayne, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominees Jack Kruschen (The Apartment, 1960) and Chill Wills (The Alamo, 1960), veterans Edgar Buchanan (The Talk of the Town) and Bruce Cabot (King Kong), and Special Guest Star Yvonne De Carlo (Criss Cross, TV’s The Munsters).

Hondo’s James Edward Grant penned the screenplay, officially an original effort. William H. Clothier, who had shot aerial/second unit sequences for Island in the Sky and The High and the Mighty, was McLintock!’s cinematographer. Another of John Wayne’s children, Michael Wayne, was the film’s credited producer.

“John Wayne DVD Collection: Rarely Seen All-Star ‘Disaster’ Blockbuster + Shakespeare Goes West” follow-up post:

‘Track of the Cat’: Experimental Cult Classic Among ‘John Wayne-Linked’ DVDs.”


Recommended articles

Check out:


Alan Ladd is mentioned as Jack Warner’s choice in William A. Wellman Jr.’s Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel.

Images of John Wayne and Claire Trevor in the “John Wayne DVD collection” entry The High and the Mighty: Batjac Productions/Warner Bros.

Image of John Wayne and Geraldine Page in the “John Wayne DVD collection” entry Hondo: Batjac/WB.

Image of John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Patrick Wayne in the “John Wayne DVD collection” entry McLintock!: Batjac/United Artists.

“John Wayne DVD Collection: Rarely Seen All-Star ‘Disaster’ Blockbuster + ‘Shakespearean’ Western” last updated in May 2020.

2 comments

You may also like

Leave a Comment

IMPORTANT: By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by Alt Film Guide. Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion; *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation, whether intentionally or not), spammy, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped. And finally, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

2 comments

edge -

I haven’t seen The High and The Mighty but I have a very fond memories of its theme soundtrack which I’ve been hearing when I was young… The theme by Victor Young is very moving. I wanted to see the movie!

Reply
Alt Film Guide -

Dimitri Tiomkin composed the score.

Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More