The Alamo: The dispute between John Wayne and his co-star who tried to leave the film

In 1945, John Wayne decided that he wanted to make a movie about the Battle of the Alamo. The pivotal conflict during the Texas Revolution saw a 13-day siege on the Alamo Mission. The Mexican army successfully killed most of the defenders, including American folk heroes Davy Crockett and James Bowie. As a result, this inspired many Texans to win the Battle of San Jacinto a month later, ending the rebellion in favor of the newly formed Republic of Texas.

Conservative patriot Wayne has hired screenwriter James Edward Grant to write a draft of The Alamo, which is on ITV4 today. But as it neared completion, the Hollywood star had a big falling out with Herbert Yates, the head of Republic Pictures.

The studio famous for its low-budget B-movies offered Duke a paltry $3 million budget, when he wanted his Alamo movie to be a big-budget epic. Unable to agree on financing, he left Republic over the dispute, but was unable to take the script with him. Instead, it was rewritten and made into 1955’s The Last Command.

However, the tenacious actor was determined to make the movie his own way. Wayne formed his own production company Batjac and decided to produce and direct The Alamo to protect his original vision for the film.

Originally, he also planned to make a cameo in the small role of Sam Houston. However, she was unable to obtain financial backing to make the film unless he also agreed to star as Davy Crockett, a role Clark Gable had been offered.

To raise the $12 million budget (more than $120 million today), Duke contributed $1.5 million of his own money by taking out second mortgages on his homes and using his cars and yachts as collateral for loans.

Before Wayne was forced to play a leading role, he wanted Richard Widmark to play Davy Crockett. But when Duke took on the role himself to secure financial backing, he had to move his co-star to another role.

United Artists, one of the patrons of The Alamo, had lobbied for the director to hire him as box office insurance. Widmark was offered the role of Colonel William Travis, but he objected and agreed to play Jim Bowie instead.

However, just a few days after filming began, he complained that he had been poorly cast and tried to leave the production. One of his problems was that at 5’9 he was playing a 6’6 man described as “larger than life.”

However, after threats of legal action, Widmark agreed to end the move, having Burt Kennedy rewrite his lines. But he didn’t get along with Wayne during the shoot.

READ MORE: ‘You can’t kill John Wayne!’ The death of the legend out of the script

Whatever the case, Duke was under incredible pressure starring, producing, and directing for the first time on a film this big that was self-financing and had a series of production problems.

To deal with the stress of the film having 7,000 extras, 1,500 horses, and 400 head of cattle in its climactic battle scene, Wayne smoked cigarettes non-stop when he wasn’t acting.

According to Smitty’s actor, Frankie Avalon: “There might be some conflict with Widmark playing the part that he did, but I didn’t see any of that. All I know is that it was difficult working for him, no doubt, because he [Wayne] he wanted it his way and he wanted professionalism. He wanted everyone to know his lines and be on his mark and do what he wanted them to do.”

Things became even more challenging when Wayne’s collaborating director, John Ford, showed up on the Alamo set uninvited and tried to influence the film’s direction.

To get rid of Pappy, Duke sent him out to shoot second-unit footage that he didn’t really intend to use in the movie, and the vast majority of it was left on the cutting room floor.

The Alamo ended up profitable at the box office and was nominated for seven Oscars, though Duke lost money on his own personal investment.

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