John Wayne ‘exhausted’ in film where the director ‘hit’ the leading lady

John Wayne had already remade 1959’s Rio Bravo, a film about a sheriff defending his office from outlaws, in 1966’s El Dorado. However, Howard Hawks, who directed both films, wanted to make it a third time in Rio Lobo in the decade. from 1970. When the filmmaker first approached Duke with the idea, the Hollywood star replied, “Can I play the drunk this time?”

Originally scheduled to be filmed in Durango, Mexico for $5 million, Rio Lobo, which is on ITV4 this weekend, was filmed for an additional $1 million in Old Tucson, Arizona, as 1971 Lawman was already filming south of border. Hawks had wanted EL Dorado star Robert Mitchem to play the drunken sheriff of him again, but he backed out. However, he would visit the set as his son Christopher had a role that the director had to fight with the studio to be cast. At this point in his career, Wayne, 62, was in failing health after having a cancerous lung removed just a few years earlier. The star, who was 13 years older than Jack Elam’s Old Man character, had trouble getting on and off his horse and was still recovering from a torn ligament in his shoulder when he was filming 1969’s The Undefeated.

Wayne’s fight scene with Victor French had to be filmed very carefully, and most of the takes used were with his double. Much of the fight took place off-camera, with only the sounds of the fight being heard. Her Rio Lobo co-star Jennifer O’Neill recalled how Duke struggled to carry her up the stairs. In an interview in the video below, she said: “He totally wore himself out, he really struggled to get over it.” Yet despite his suffering, the 21-year-old remembered Wayne as “the nicest guy in the world” who went out of his way to help young actors who were trying to improve his performances. However, he couldn’t say the same for Principal Hawks.

O’Neill said that Hawks’ punch hurt her after the principal actually punched her with intent. The actress also claimed that he said that she would make her a star if she signed up for three movies, although Rio Lobo would be her last. Since he refused, the filmmaker’s feelings towards her changed and he treated her badly on set. She even claimed that Hawks said it would ruin her career.

During filming, the 21-year-old felt that the director’s mental faculties were not quite in order, which could explain part of his unpleasant behavior. O’Neill filmed a scene with a fake mustache as a joke, which Hawks completely missed even after yelling cut. Speaking of dressing up on set for a prank, that’s exactly what the cast and crew did to celebrate Wayne’s Oscar win.

During a break from filming Rio Lobo, Wayne returned to Hollywood to pick up his first and only Best Actor Oscar after playing Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s True Grit.

According to John Wayne: American by Randy Roberts: “[Duke] He walked out, laughing out loud at first, then subsiding into a teary-eyed smile. Everyone, including the horses, sported an eyepatch, and the crowd cheered and hissed congratulations to the best actor in the world.”

This was certainly a special moment for the star, who in addition to his own health issues lost his mother during filming and then his brother Robert E Morrison just a month after the finale.

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