Screengrab: When Wayne Met Wodehouse (Sort Of…)

Ttv  watching old




I have been reading Wodehouse- a most relaxing passing of time. It is best done in a hammock on a warm summer’s day with a Pym’s under a large flowing oak tree.

But it isn’t. It is done on a chilly wet June afternoon.

Anyway, Wodehouse, who seemed to write the same book for 65 years, had one about fathers and sons. There’s a great quote from Lord Emsworth (he of Blandings Castle which seems to be fictionally located near Shrewsbury by the way).

It goes something like this:

‘It is trying for a father who wants to talk about nothing but pigs to have a son in the home who wants to talk about nothing but dog-biscuits.’


There you go: the son and father thing. Lord knows what the mother and daughter thing is about.

I mention this as I highlight this week’s movie on the box that You Just Really Cannot Miss.

It is Rio Grande (Fri; Film4, 16.40), directed by maestro John Ford and starring his alter ego John Wayne .

Now before some of you softies out there start chewing on the carpet  about The Dook let me say in his defence that  he was a subtle actor in his mid years before becoming a cranky nut. This  1950 film is one of his best..and one of Ford’s most elegiac and visually beautiful down there in Monument Valley.

Now, just how does fey old  PG ‘Tip’ Wodehouse link in with a cowboy film?

It is because while Rio Grande is about alot of things, it is also about fathers and sons. On two levels: the first is that Wayne’s character Col Kirby Yorke is all nice and settled in fighting Apaches when who shows up but his 19 year old son who flunked out of West Point and wants to be a private in his dad’s cavalry unit. And, secondly, in real, pay your taxes, buy a new pair of shoes, I got dandruff way, it is the first film for Wayne’s real life son Patrick.

So, fathers and sons. In the film, Col Yorke has to contend with a son (Harry Jarman)  who is trying real hard but has to feel the hard side of the dad’s temper because no one is shown favouritism in the Old West.

And in real life Patrick has to learn that Wayne is a super star and he, basically, will have to ride his dad’s coat tails for the rest of his life (‘Yes, my name is Wayne, and I’m John’s son…’)

Anyway to the movie:  it is classic Ford country and part of his army life trilogy which includes She Wore a Yellow River and Fort Apache.

Wayne’s character is a Civil War hero now training new recruits near the Mexican border. He is moral, hard and still calming down from the depredations of the Civil War stint. But a great decision must be made: ruthless Apaches have raided farms and then made a run for it across the border. Col Yorke is told to secretly and illegally  cross the border to catch the baddies who murdered and raped..

If he succeeds, he is a hero. If he fails, he faces a court martial for the incurison into Mexico.

Wayne handles the dilemma well. He is supported, per usual in these Ford classics, by his normal crew of actors who can really ride a horses: Ben Johnson (one of Hollywood’s great cowboy voices), Chill Wills, Harry Carey Jr and  loyal pal   Victor McLaglen as the two fisted  hard drinking  bozo Sgt Quincannon.

Wayne said later the film was a metaphor for the Korean War. Others say it shows Wayne as a rounded actor with depth. Still others point to the visual breadth of the movie with Monument Valley and other Utah sites as the real star. Ford, by the way, had the good sense to let these stunning landscapes stay in shot. No quick edits here.

This  Ford film was one of five that Wayne and co star Maureen O’Hara made together. They finished this one to make The Quiet Man in Ireland. It too had McLaglen as a hard drinking two fisted…yaddy-yaddy, you get the idea.

Real life son Patrick, by the way, was 11 when he dipped his toe into movie making. He ultimately had a useful career and paid the rent with tv and the films and even auditioned for Superman back in the ’70’s. There…a piece of movie trivia for you.

2 thoughts on “Screengrab: When Wayne Met Wodehouse (Sort Of…)

  1. It was well known that Dook was a great admirer of Wodehouse – even to the extent of changing his character’s name in True Grit from James Coburn to Wooster Cogburn.

    I think he went off the rails a bit when he made The Green Berets, although he was struggling somewhat after those lines he had in the Greatest Story Ever Told – something like: “He sure wuz the sonner gaard”

    Ben Johnson, however, was one the great horsemen of the screen. Possibly second only to Clayton Moore.

  2. hmm: The line from The Greatest Story… was the director told Wayne to say his words with ‘awe’  and he said: art the son of God..”

    as for Ben Johnson, amazing that a Jacobean writer could be such a good cowboy

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