In association with the John Wayne-founded Batjac Productions, Paramount Home Entertainment and Paramount’s Worldwide Television Distribution will be releasing four John Wayne DVDs beginning in spring 2005.
Three of those were made by (Batjac predecessor) Wayne/Fellows Productions and distributed by Warner Bros.: The aviation thriller/soap opera The High and the Mighty, the adventure drama Island in the Sky, and the Western Hondo. The fourth title is the Batjac-produced, United Artists-released comedy Western McLintock!.
Established 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 – both of which are also coming out on DVD).
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 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 (also coming out on DVD).
Below is a brief overview of the four upcoming John Wayne DVD titles.
The High and the Mighty (1954): ‘John Wayne DVD collection’ highlight
Rarely seen since the mid-1980s due to legal issues and severe print deterioration, William A. Wellman’s star-studded drama The High and the Mighty is the highlight among Paramount Home Entertainment’s upcoming John Wayne DVDs.
The story of a passenger airliner suffering from technical problems on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, The High and the Mighty was the precursor to countless all-star disaster movies, whether set on airplanes (The Crowded Sky, Airport and its sequels, etc.) or elsewhere (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, etc.).
As a former pilot haunted by the memory of a plane crash for which he held himself responsible, John Wayne leads the mostly prestigious cast: Robert Stack, Laraine Day, Robert Newton, David Brian, Julie Bishop, Sidney Blackmer, Doe Avedon, Paul Kelly, and Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominees Claire Trevor* and Jan Sterling.
Former aviator Ernest K. Gann was credited for the screenplay, based on his own 1953 novel.
Besides its two Best Supporting Actress Oscar nods, The High and the Mighty was also shortlisted for Best Director (but not Best Picture), Best Editing (Ralph Dawson), Best Score of a Dramatic/Comedy Picture (Dimitri Tiomkin), and Best Original Song (“The High and the Mighty” – music by Dimitri Tiomkin; lyrics by Ned Washington). It topped only the Best Score category.
* Claire Trevor and John Wayne had previously worked together in three movies: William A. Seiter’s Allegheny Uprising (1939), John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), and Raoul Walsh’s Dark Command (1940). The High and the Mighty was their final collaboration.
Island in the Sky (1953): More earthbound The High and the Mighty predecessor
Island in the Sky is a less famous, more modest (e.g., shot in black and white; only one “name” actor), and equally rare (also due to rights/print quality issues) predecessor to The High and the Mighty.
Like its more renowned, more successful, and bigger-budget followup, Island in the Sky is an airplane-in-trouble effort directed by William A. Wellman, written by Ernest K. Gann (adapting his 1944 novel), and starring John Wayne. The plot chronicles the difficulties facing a group of airmen after a forced landing in sub-Arctic Canada.
In the Island in the Sky supporting cast: Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, future Gunsmoke star James Arness, Andy Devine, and, in minor roles, future TV stars Fess Parker (Daniel Boone) and Mike Connors (Mannix; here billed as Touch Connors).
McLintock! (1963): William Shakespeare goes West
Partly inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the comedy Western McLintock! was 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 the son of Oscar-winning actor Victor McLaglen (The Informer, 1935).
In her fourth pairing* with John Wayne (following John Ford’s Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, and The Wings of Eagles), Maureen O’Hara plays the estranged wife of the titular rancher (Wayne), who reappears on the scene to ask for a divorce and get custody of their daughter (future Hart to Hart star Stefanie Powers).
Also in the McLintock! cast: John Wayne’s son Patrick Wayne, 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).
James Edward Grant (see Hondo segment below) penned the screenplay, officially an original effort.
* Maureen O’Hara would also have a cameo in George Sherman’s 1971 Western Big Jake, starring John Wayne.
Hondo (1953): 3D Western ‘introduced’ future Oscar winner Geraldine Page
Mostly directed by John Farrow* (John Ford handled a couple of brief scenes) from a screenplay by James Edward Grant – adapting Louis L’Amour’s short story “The Gift of Cochise” – the 3D Warnercolor Western Hondo stars John Wayne (replacing original choice Glenn Ford) as the titular U.S. Army scout who, having lost his horse, arrives at the farm of a homesteader (Geraldine Page†) who had been abandoned by her husband.
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, in the Best Supporting Actress category).
- Louis L’Amour was shortlisted in the now extinct Best Motion Picture Story category but had his nomination withdrawn, as L’Amour’s “story” (an actual short story, not a screenplay treatment or draft) had been initially published in Collier’s magazine in July 1952.
Also in the Hondo cast: Ward Bond, James Arness, and, as two of the film’s Apaches, Michael Pate and Rodolfo Acosta.
† Notwithstanding Hondo’s “Introducing Geraldine Page” credit, Page had been previously seen on the big screen in an uncredited small role in Gregory Ratoff’s 1953 drama Taxi.
“New John Wayne DVDs: 4 Notable Titles” notes
Paramount Pictures website.
John Wayne The High and the Mighty movie image: Batjac Productions | Warner Bros.
John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Patrick Wayne McLintock! image: Batjac | United Artists.
“New John Wayne DVDs: 4 Notable Titles” last updated in May 2023.