John Wayne was grabbed and shaken in gruesome deal at Stagecoach

John Wayne and John Ford collaborated on my classic westerns, but the one that made Duke a star was 1939’s Stagecoach. Set in the 1880s, the story followed a group of strangers riding through dangerous Apache terror, in a film Orson Welles believed it was a textbook. In fact, he watched it more than 40 times as he prepared to make “the greatest movie of all time” Citizen Kane.

Stagecoach also made Wayne wear his trademark hat which he sported in many of his westerns, until he retired it two decades after filming Rio Bravo, simply because it was “falling apart”.

The 1939 film was a true turning point in Duke’s career, as director Ford finally decided to cast him in one of his films as the Ringo Kid. After being offered the role, Wayne felt he had been “hit in the stomach with a baseball bat” and feared the filmmaker would change his mind and cast Lloyd Nolan instead of him.

However, he made good on his word to Ford that he had to push producer Walter Wanger, as he kept rejecting Wayne for being a B-movie actor, and wanted Gary Cooper to star instead. In the end, he relented as the director refused to make the film any other way.

However, this did not stop Ford from treating Duke and his co-stars terribly on the set of what would be his first sound-era western.

Ford was known for bullying his actors, partly because he wanted to get a better performance out of them. On the set of Stagecoach, he attacked Buck’s actor Andy Devine in a furious outburst, saying, “You big vat of lard! I don’t know why the hell I’m using you in this photo!” However, the star replied: “Because Ward Bond can’t drive six horses.”

The director also tried Doc Boone actor Thomas Mitchell, who responded with a scathing response about a recent flop of his: “Just remember: I saw Mary of Scotland!” The worst thing, however, was Ford’s treatment of Wayne, whom he would call “a big lout and a ‘dumb’ b***ard.”

READ MORE: Raquel Welch called out ‘big bad John Wayne’ which made him a ‘real pushover’

Ford was constantly criticizing Wayne’s delivery of lines, the way he walked, and even how he washed his face in the movie. Dallas star Claire Trevor claims that at one point the director grabbed Duke by the chin and shook him saying, “Why are you moving your mouth so much? Don’t you know you don’t act with your mouth in pictures? You act with your eyes.”

The filmmaker’s terrible treatment of actors to get better performances from them continued for the rest of his career, with some stars even walking off set. However, Wayne continued to put up with it mainly because he knew deep in his heart that Ford had made him a star with Stagecoach.

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